After the success of Crash and Babel, filmmaker Christopher Landon attempts to make his own threaded drama. Burning Palms promises five outrageous tales to shock and awe, so join me after the jump to see if this movie you might have missed should be in your Netflix queue.
Burning Palms is a satirical comedic drama, a compilation of five separate, unrelated shorts that depict supposed Los Angeles stereotypes. In The Green Eyed Monster, a woman and her fiancé welcome the man’s 15 year old daughter for a summer break, but the woman is shocked at the nature of their relationship. This Little Piggy follows the mental unhinging of Ginny Bai after she agrees to participate in a questionable sex act with her boyfriend. In Buyer’s Remorse, a gay couple in West Hollywood adopt a young African girl, but are less than satisfied with their choice. A stoned nanny watches as the lives of the live-in help unravel around an outlandish accusation in Kangaroo Court. And finally, in Maneater, a young woman is raped but finds her attacker’s wallet in her apartment.
The film generally just tries way too hard. It tries too hard to be in your face, to be offensive, to be shocking. But it’s none of these things. The only thing really rude, shocking, or offensive about the whole thing is just the presentation of the film itself. That isn’t necessarily true, I’m sure the original premises of these tales were at once shocking, but under the pen and direction of Christpher Landon, they all just fell short. The viewer can sense every twisted surprise coming and if you’ve been on the internet at all in the past five years, nothing presented in this compilation should be that off-putting at all. Not to mention the lackluster and anticlimactic ending to every segment. You sit for 20+ minutes through each endeavor and at the end of each there’s that feeling of, “Oh, it’s done?” Whether the film is supposed to be a satire of Los Angeles conventions or a dark comedy, Burning Palms falls obscenely flat. While you may give a dry chuckle here and there, nothing in the movie is exactly funny nor is it satirical. You could think of it as the poor, or deluded, man’s Crash.
While the cast is indeed stacked (you’ll see names like Paz Vega, Dylan McDermott, and Lake Bell roll through the credits) the only praise I can award this downward spiral belongs to Zoe Saldana. Miss Saldana is a star through and through and her performance in the final short of Burning Palms is the only thing in this entire debacle worth watching. I’m not really sure what to say about her performance without giving away the entire plot of her segment other than she was great. And in fact, her piece Maneater, is probably the only segment I can say I enjoyed at all. It is the one short that did not disappoint me with overacting or horrible plot.
Burning Palms is a very certain type of movie; the type of movie that has an ulterior motive, an underlying meaning. What Burning Palms’ ulterior motive is, exactly, is unclear to me because writer/director Christopher Landon made a crappy movie. The filmmaker is too preoccupied with shocking the audience and making them look deeper, that it fails to do just that. The audience is bored by the assumed audacity and doesn’t care to think more about what the film was really trying to say. I’m not even sure Landon knows what he wanted the film to say in the first place. Burning Palms attempts to ride the coattails of other recent amazingly made ensemble vehicles where seemingly unrelated stories intertwine, but fails to do anything but annoy. I wouldn’t blame you at all for missing this one.