A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The film debates the value of truth; at the heart of it is this line: "Never let anything's worth obscure its value."
Positive Role Models
While it's tough to consider any of the characters truly positive role models, one, as flawed as she may be, insists on the truth. Another has escaped need to be rich, famous, celebrated and is content to enjoy his talent without receiving praise.
Violence & Scariness
Violent attacks against a woman are shown; she's seen in extreme distress. A story about a brother and sister who've passed away includes graphic descriptions of how they died.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Prolonged, graphic sex scene between a couple who've just met. A woman's breasts are on view for a long time, and a man is shown naked from the side and the back.
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Strong language includes "f--k" and "whore." A character challenges the other to call him names, including "a--hole," "bastard," "c--ksucker," "motherf----r."
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Products & Purchases
Obvious brands include Range Rover and an Apple laptop. The setting for most of the story is a luxury vacation home that's aspirationally gorgeous. Storyline values possessing expensive art and prestige over humanity.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Both lead characters smoke cigarettes frequently. Aspirational characters drink during the day. One main character abuses prescription drugs regularly; the other participates once but makes it clear that she believes he has a problem and doesn't take any more after that. He suffers no consequences for his addiction, and it's not a factor in his decision-making.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Burnt Orange Heresy is a crime drama set in the art world. Based on Charles Willeford's novel, it centers on James (Claes Bang), a shady art critic who drinks, smokes, and pops prescription pills with no consequences. He has no use for truth, and one of the movie's takeaways is a warning against thought influencers and the traps of choosing to believe what we want to be true rather than reality. Art theory is discussed at length, frequently with a pompous style. An explicit sex scene leaves very little to the imagination, with co-star Elizabeth Debicki's breasts as the focal point. Violent attacks against a woman are shown, and there are graphic descriptions of how two people died. Strong language includes "f--k" and "c--ksucker." Claes Bang co-stars, and Mick Jagger appears. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This highbrow adaptation of Charles Willeford's novel still feels like a book. It's thick with eloquent speeches that seem more like lyrical poetry than dialogue; intriguing, highly flawed characters; and doubts about who to trust. The film's literary nature, combined with the Italian location and the high art subject matter, makes for a pretentious movie -- but that's the very idea. From the moment we meet James, we see that he's turned himself into a elitist showboat for whom truth is just an illusion. He quickly attaches to the equally confident Berenice, who's openly hiding her true self. As they debate the merits of honesty on their way to visit Joseph, the film plays out like a mystery (it's not): Where is it all going? Who's the hero, and who's the villain? When those questions are answered, it's not what you'd expect. The ending even takes a bit of digesting: You might have to talk it out to arrive at the conclusion -- which is really more fun, isn't it?
The Burnt Orange Heresy is neo-noir -- bright and light instead of dark and shadowy -- and while Bang and Debicki are full of talent, they're not Bogart and Bacall. Their characters are charisma vacuums, one so arrogantly unethical and the other so smugly clever. She seems too smart to be willing to spend her time with a man who's so unworthy of her. Clue crumbs are there to pick up, but viewers might need a whole loaf of bread to understand some of her decisions. Co-star Donald Sutherland, playing an artist living in self-imposed exile, is a true talent, but he isn't believable here. And even though he's styled as a well-groomed upper-crust patron of the arts, it's impossible to accept Jagger as anyone other than himself. Still, it's fun to watch him: It's a rare opportunity to just look at his craggy face and think about the full life he's lived. The Burnt Orange Heresy is a piece of statement art, and while it doesn't paint its picture as clearly as a parent might like, the brushstrokes will fill your thoughts for days.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.