Burning Palms Movie Review

Burning Palms is in limited release and that’s probably a good thing. The tagline is “Five Tales That Will F#%! You Up For Life.”  I wish it did F#%! me up. The tagline is more inspired than any of the five vignettes that make up the film. The dark comedy from first time director Christopher B. Landon fails to disturb and shock like it promises.

Burning Palms is presented, somewhat inexplicitly, in a graphic novel style. The film interlaces five stories that take place in different parts of Los Angeles. In the first story, “The Green Eyed Monster”  Rosamund Pike finds out that her fiancé Dylan McDermott, a widowed father,  has an unhealthy relationship with his teenage daughter, played by Emily Meade.”In “Little Piggy” Jamie Chung spirals out of control when exposed to a taboo sex act by her boyfriend. A West Hollywood gay couple adopt an African girl in “Buyers Remorse.” A perpetually high nanny played by Lake Bell is in charge of three horrible children who find out some unsettling secrets from their live-in staff, in “Kangaroo Court.”  Lastly in “Maneater” Zoe Saldana plays a rape victim who is able to locate her attacker (played by Nick Stahl) and asks for a date.

Ultimately the film is a poor man’s Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Burning Palms has a lack of focus climatically as each story limps to their anti-climatic reveals. Two bright spots in the movie are the inspired performances from Zoe Saldana and Emily Meade. The locales are underutilized and in most cases the stories could take place in Any City, USA.  A satire of Angelenos and L.A. stereotypes loses some of its power when the actual location is relatively ignored. It crossed my mind that Burning Palms might actually be satirizing movies about L.A. like Short Cuts, Four Rooms, The Producer, or even L.A. Story but that is not the case.

Writer/director Christopher B. Landon is the son of Hollywood legend Michael Landon, and is best known for penning the successfully suspenseful Disturbia. For Landon’s directorial debut, Burning Palms is a movie that threatens to leave no taboo unexplored but the film seemed scared and hesitant of its own subject matter, and never takes the plunge into the deep end of dark and satirical film-making

In this way the movie fails. The shocking parts are predictable, the funny parts fall flat, and the satire is non-existent. That is the core of the problem with Burning Palms: there is a fine line between satire and stereotypes. The film doesn’t seem aware of this line as it tries its hardest to make a point about stereotypes and taboos. It fails miserably at making this point and just ends up being misogynistic and naïve. I would have loved to have been shocked and disturbed. Instead I had to settle for disappointed.

Photos by Jesse Grant – © WireImage.com

One Comment

  1. “Climatically” and “anti-climatic”; get a bit more familiar with your film terms…

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