Criticism, whether you’re critiquing art, film or anything in between, can be a very persuasive tool. This “power of the critic” can make the most insignificant things seem meaningful, or the most valuable things seem worthless. To put it simply, it’s all one big trick. This is exactly what The Burnt Orange Heresy is trying to convey.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into this film. It had an intriguing trailer and boasts a unique and talented cast. My biggest worry was that it was going to come off as pretentious, and suffer from not fully knowing what it wants to be. But while it does at times feel a little too self-indulgent for my liking, it never derailed from the overall viewing experience.
The Burnt Orange Heresy follows ambitious art critic James (Claes Bang, The Square, Dracula) and his girlfriend Bee (Elizabeth Debicki, Widows, Tenet) as they are whisked off to the estate of the wealthy art collector Joseph Cassidy (Mick Jagger). Cassidy hires James to steal a painting from the brilliant and reclusive artist Jerome Debney (Donald Sutherland, The Hunger Games series), who hasn’t shared his work with the world in over 50 years.
First off, The Burnt Orange Heresy boasts a solid and compelling script. The film was written by Scott B. Smith, who received an Oscar nomination in 1998 for his screen adaptation of A Simple Plan, which if you haven’t seen, is an extremely well-crafted drama directed by Sam Raimi. Much like in A Simple Plan, much of The Burnt Orange Heresy is built around themes of greed, deceit and morality. From the first few scenes, it paints the characters as people who are not to be trusted, and does so in a believable way. You find yourself constantly questioning the characters intentions, and wondering just how far they’ll go in order to get what they want – and as it turns out, pretty far.
But while the writing is solid, I honestly don’t know if it would have held my interest as long as it did if it weren’t for the actors. Call me uncultured but if there’s one thing that bores me, it’s people standing around talking about art – however, the actors are charismatic enough so I was able to stay on board. Not only that, I was thoroughly invested. Claes Bang, Elizabeth Debicki, Donald Sutherland, and Mick Jagger help elevate The Burnt Orange Heresy beyond just another dull melodrama. On a side note, this was the first performance of Jagger’s I’ve seen and I was surprised to find that he was my favourite part. He isn’t in the film for long, but he steals the show as the scheming art collector.
The Burnt Orange Heresy has a bit of a pacing issue. I commend Giuseppe Capotondi for his competent directing; there are more than a few gorgeous-looking shots. But a middle portion of the movie drags on a bit, to the point where I genuinely almost forgot what the characters were even doing. It picks up, however, with a gripping third act. It isn’t very often that I go into a film with little to zero expectations, and end up still thinking about it days after watching. But that’s exactly the case with The Burnt Orange Heresy. It may not be for everyone, but with an intriguing script and an excellent cast, it made for a surprising movie-watching experience for me. But whether or not you take the word of this critic is for you to decide!