Like a malfunctioning GPS that ultimately gets you where you need to go, highlighting the must-see spots along the way – but not necessarily in the order you’d expect, “Burning Man” is the kind of filmish delicacy that refuses to play join the dots with as straight a line as possible and demands it’s delectable jigsaw be pieced back together by its audience.
Granted, said film will be about quarter-way in before you realize you’re being treated to something other than a downunder take on Abel Ferrara’s ”Bad Lieutenant” or a super effective TAC commercial from the troops at the VCA. Like the newly-modified right-side of Gary Busey’s face, this jumpy food-for-the-brain flick takes some getting used to.
Those scattered clips of lewd rumpy-pumpy and angry-man-phone-conversation that open the film don’t, as opposed to the Steve Carell flick playing next door, come with the typical intangible instructional guide usually handed out with multliplex fare. And good on writer/director Jonathon Teplitzky for not spoonfeeding his audience nor, for that matter, adding a late-change ‘everyone smiles and dances to Steve Winwood music’ ending.
“Burning Man” is a real flick. With real folks. Real flames.
It’s up to you, yes you, to discover why a volatile cook named Tom (Matthew Goode) is fucking anything that movies and sucking at everything else – like being a good father, being kind to friends and family, and throwing hissy fits at birthday parties (that one’s not entirely his fault; think Daniel LaRusso at the beach party in the original “Karate Kid” – if the drippy martial-arts student had been getting into Miyagi’s Shochu, Awamori) .
It’s a psychology class you’ll be glad you attended once you put together the reasons behind this man’s drastic and, ultimately, dangerous actions.
It’s clear, what with the production notes not mentioning it or the trailers not giving anything away, that the filmmakers don’t want the audience to know the reason behind Tom’s descend into darkness, so I won’t give it away here either (rare of a studio to not want to give away a little more though). Let’s just say, if I can, there’s a huge dollop of cream coming that’ll help soothe the pain that goes with downing the spicy Jambalaya served up in the film’s first-half.
But again, said cream never feels out of place. It goes with the Jambalaya.
This is a movie that will strike a chord with a few people – and for various reasons. And the few that can’t relate to anything in it will simply appreciate it’s study of why good guys sometimes behave like dickheads.
The follow up to his AFI award winning comedy treat ”Gettin’ Square” (2003), Jonathan Teplitzky’s semi-autobiographical ”Burning Man” is a gleaming magnum opus that, though hard to watch at times because of its ominous where’s-the-nearest-cliff tone, is ultimately a rewarding watch that stimulates the mind and massages the soul.
The script and expert direction is clearly the star here, but performance wise Matthew Goode is Matthew bloody Great as the forlorn Tom. It’s a good thing this guy was passed over for the umpteen superhero films he’s tried out for in recent years (namely Superman) because the “Watchmen” star is clearly a man of skill, not steel. As impressive as he’s been in his previous films (namely ”Match Point” and “A Single Man”), this is a career- making turn for the Brit. The uninhibited turn could’ve, in a weaker actor’s hands, come across as desperate or forced (Meg Ryan’s titty-lating and supposedly shocking turn in Jane Campion’s “In the Cut” comes to mind) but Goode oils himself down in the essence of Tom, stinking of nothing but realism and raw emotion. The man is commanding in the performance and coupled with the amazing support cast – led by the always impressive Bojana Novakovic (“Satisfaction”, “Marking Time”) as Tom’s other half, whose arc is just as important as Tom’s; with Rachel Griffiths, Kerry Fox, Essie Davies, Kate Beahan and, albeit briefly, Garry McDonald just as solid- has himself one heck of a showreel to splice into the demo he should be dropping onto the doorstep of every Scorsese or Fincher in town.
“Burning Man” is a very different movie and one that won’t play like quick-eze to those whose appetite can at times be soured by a sense of unsettledness. But for those with much patience, a penchant for real drama, and a past partly filled of pain, look no further than the session times for it.
And for those that ultimately complain about the lack of a fluffy Steve Winwood theme, accompanied by smiling faces, playing over the end credits, watch the film then, just before the credit block rolls, click back here and press the video below :