F.I.L.M. of the Week (November 21, 2014)

21 11 2014

Academy Award winner Charlize Theron is Sylvia, a Portland restaurant worker who feels distinctly spiritually absent.  She still has a cutting problem that she manages to keep inconspicuous from the world, and she frequently engages in sex with men in an attempt to feel something.  Theron gives one of those “physically naked signifying emotionally naked” kind of performances, which proves hauntingly effective.

Academy Award winner Kim Basinger is Gina, a wife and mother in New Mexico who can only find happiness in the embrace of her Hispanic lover, Nick.  Their affair crosses not just ethnic but also social class boundaries, two status markers that erect rigid divisions in their small community.

Now an Academy Award winner, Jennifer Lawrence is Mariana, a self-sufficient teen thrown into the responsibilities of surrogate motherhood far too early.  (The character now makes for an interesting antecedent to “Winter’s Bone” as well as “The Hunger Games.”)  She is at a transitional moment in her life, unsure of how to feel about her inattentive mother and budding romantic prospect.  Lawrence marvelously conveys both her tenacity and her insecurity.

“The Burning Plain” is a movie where – gasp! – all these women’s stories connect, as characters often tended to be linked somehow in the first decade of the 2000s.  This is my selection for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week,” though, because writer/director Guillermo Arriaga ties these disparate storylines into one complete package.  (Arriaga had plenty of practice writing the first three “hyperlink cinema” screenplays for director Alejandro González Iñárritu.)  His film is a plaintive meditation on the paralyzing effects of guilt that lands with somber impact thanks to a carefully crafted script and three quietly moving female performances.

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