Writer/director Christopher Landon has one very twisted sense of humor.
The filmmaker’s feature-length directorial debut “Burning Palms” is comprised of five short stories that, as the tagline promises, will “mess you up 4 life.” And, like any such collection, some stories are better than others. Therefore, it is best to examine each one individually before coming to a consensus on the movie as a whole.
‘The Green Eyed Monster’
Rosamund Pike plays Dedra, a woman who meets her fiance Dennis’s (Dylan McDermott) 14-year-old daughter Chloe (Emily Meade) for the first time only to discover that the pair have a relationship that is a bit too close for comfort. It is the most down-to-earth of the stories featured in “Burning Palms” – but that is not saying much. Still, its engrossing plot will leave you wanting more – even though the drop-dead-gorgeous Meade is miscast.
‘This Little Piggy’
Jamie Chung plays Ginny, a woman who agrees to facilitate her boyfriend Chad’s (Robert Hoffman) kinky bedroom request prompting her to quickly come undone. The best of all of the stories featured in “Burning Palms” is so obscenely funny that you have to see it to believe it. The only downside is that, like all of the stories featured in “Burning Palms,” its outcome is predictable if not downright inevitable.
Peter Macdissi and Anson Mount play a wealthy and well-recognized gay couple, Geri and Tom, who adopt a 7-year-old African girl (Tiara McKinney) – whom they name Mahogany – only to be surprised by their mute daughter’s decidedly wild behavior. It’s quirky enough and entertaining throughout but, tragically, goes nowhere. Still, it is reminiscent of a really offensive “Sex and the City” subplot – and that is a compliment.
Austin Williams plays an unsupervised young boy named Nicholas who leads his brothers and nanny Maryjane (Lake Bell) in a very revealing mock trial when the umbilical cord belonging to their live-in maid Blanca’s (Paz Vega) dead baby goes missing. It is by far the worst of all five stories featured in “Burning Palms,” lacking any shock value whatsoever and landing with a emotionally flat thud.
Zoe Saldana plays Sarah, a woman who is raped by a stranger (Nick Stahl) only to find his wallet in her apartment the next morning. Rather than seeking justice or revenge, Sarah confronts her attacker with a bizarre request. It is the one story in “Burning Palms” that is more focused on tragedy than comedy – yet it excels as such in a way that will tear your heart in two. Saldana sizzles.
Needless to say, Landon injects “Burning Palms” with quite the eclectic collection of shorts. Unfortunately, only “This Little Piggy” manages to stand out from the crowd with its cordially corkscrewed creativity, though “Maneater” would have been the star had it not been the movie’s sore thumb. At the end of the day, the feature lacks any common theme throughout the threads – much less any point or moral whatsoever.
Then again, sometimes, perversion is enough. And you cannot get much more perverted that “Burning Palms,” a grotesquely entertaining experience to say the least.
“Burning Palms” (R – 112 minutes) is now available on DVD at retail stores and rental outlets throughout the Valley.
Listen to Joseph J. Airdo’s “Movie Maverick” radio segment, every Friday morning at 8:30 a.m. during “The Daily Blender with Jeffry O’Brien” on KBSZ – NBC 1260 AM and 96.1 FM.