The Burnt Orange Heresy
There are movies where you know someone is running a con, but you don't know who it is.
Is it the marble sculpture of a blonde, with a generic accent, who appears out of nowhere amidst a crowd of bored, elderly tourists?
Is it the glib pill-popping art critic, starved for recognition and yet so full of himself that he doesn't question his own preconceptions?
Might it be the debonair millionaire who invites him over to his “modest summer cottage” with a proposal?
Or the picture-perfect wise-old-man recluse of a painter? Is he even real?
And still, even though you smell the con coming, The Burn Orange Heresy has the feel and pacing of a play, constrained in space, where you might not be shown things by necessity instead of by design.
Is it hiding something or are you getting paranoid?
The mark. The provocateur. The bystander. The victim. At least one of them is a Bryonic Hero – but who's which? It's noir alright, even though it insists on settings it action mostly in airy, brightly lit buildings with sky-high ceilings.
The cast does their bit impeccably. I have been waiting for years for Elizabeth Debicki to start squirm her way out of her casting straitjacket. Here she gets to play a whip-smart character with a staccato of quick quips, and the figure that you are most uncertain of for the entire movie (as befitting the genre). She lifts Claes Bang, who could otherwise come across merely as the requisite asshole, the kind of insufferable bastard who calls people “pumpkin”, and runs rhetorical circles around him while keeping you wondering about how much of it is made up on the fly and how much rehearsed. Mick Jagger, looking like an oily, debonair Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Donald Sutherland as the Donald Sutherland character, are in their elements.
No, I haven't told you what it is about. Do you really need me to? You have a troubled critic, a mysterious woman, a hermit of a painter, and a millionaire. Throw them at a canvas and slowly step away.
Oh, you want to hear a demerit? To point out the fly in the mix, it's a movie you've seen before. It's packed with quotable bits, but can come across as if it thinks it's smarter than it is. But that can be the case, and you can still get away with it.