In the most offensive of the five Los Angeles–based stories that make up this built-to-shock anthology film, a shy, hopelessly lonely copy-store clerk (Zoe Saldana) tracks down the man who raped her (Nick Stahl), asks him out to dinner, and then back to her place. (Hint: She does not have vengeance on her mind.) In another tale, a woman (Rosamund Pike) comes to realize that the outrageously permissive attitude her fiance (Dylan McDermott) displays toward his promiscuous teenage daughter (Emily Meade) is a form of incest. Rather than intercede, or simply split, the woman punishes herself, brutally. In Burning Palms, it quickly becomes apparent that, at least as a filmmaker, writer-director Christopher B. Landon is not kind to women, even little ones. In a cringingly unfunny satire of gay West Hollywood, a seven-year-old girl from Africa (Tiara McKinney) is adopted, illegally, by a white male couple (Anson Mount and Peter Macdissi) for whom parenthood is hip. The girl refuses to speak to her new daddies, which is understandable since Landon has written the couple to be so swishy and vapid—in tight-jeaned, hopelessly dated ways—that keeping quiet and running to hide in the backyard, as the girl often does, seems the only sane response. Moviegoers may seek an equivalent refuge.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 12, 2011