Out of Blue - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Out of Blue Reviews

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May 17, 2019
A cliched, predictable, tonally inconsistent mess

Part murder-mystery, part esoteric cosmological rumination, part metaphysical neo-noir, writer/director Carol Morley's Out of Blue is a complete shambles. That this is so gives me no pleasure at all, as I'm a big fan of both Dreams of a Life (2011) and The Falling (2014). Loosely based on Martin Amis's 1997 novel Night Train, Out of Blue is obviously designed as a puzzle - the story only ever seems half-formed, as if we're seeing it through gauze. Mixing tones, themes, and styles, the film tries to be many things at once, but ultimately ends up being none of them; far too simplistic to be a fully realised examination of the nature of existence, far too predictable to be a whodunnit, far too cliched to be a noir.

Set in New Orleans in an unspecified time period, the film follows Det. Mike Hoolihan (Patricia Clarkson) as she investigates the murder of astrophysicist Jennifer Rockwell (Mamie Gummer), an expert on black holes and a proponent of the multiverse theory. The investigation will ultimately involve quantum mechanics, dark matter, string theory, Schrodinger's cat, and the double-slit experiment, as well as forcing Hoolihan to confront a childhood trauma she has repressed and an unsolved serial killer case from the 1970s; the ".38 Killer", who always killed women that looked a lot like Jennifer.

Out of Blue attempts to connect the relative mundanity of human suffering to the vast unknowable mysteries of the universe. On the surface, this is quite similar to what Terrence Malick does in The Tree of Life (2011). However, whereas Malick was essentially making the point that the birth of a galaxy is analogous with the birth of a child and that spirituality and science are not mutually exclusive, Morley sets our existence as a random and infinitesimal fragment in the impossible-to-conceive-of enormity of the universe.

Unfortunately, the predictable outcome of the murder investigation has virtually nothing whatsoever to do with black holes and the multiverse. Audiences will be left asking such questions as why is there so much information on Jennifer's research; is it all just an elaborate MacGuffin. The idea is obviously that in searching for the killer, Hoolihan is discovering herself, played out against the backdrop of infinity, but the film never addresses why we should care, as it doesn't actually say anything interesting or significant about the connection between humanity and the strange goings-on of space-time.

The quotidian nature of the whodunnit isn't helped by the fact that much of the acting is questionable, which seems unbelievable given the cast. As Jennifer's parents, Jackie Weaver appears to be in a completely different film to everyone else, and James Caan is simply doing an imitation of John Huston in Chinatown (1974). Devyn A. Tyler as a novice reporter, and Todd Mann and Brad Mann as Jennifer's creepy twin brothers never manage to escape the archetypal noir parameters of the characters they play. Yolanda T. Ross and Aaron Tveit, as Hoolihan's boss and colleague, respectively, are basically extras. Even Patricia Clarkson struggles with breathing life into the material. The problem, however, lies with Morley's script, rather than the actors. Essentially refusing to allow the audience any kind of emotional connection with the characters, Morley instead reduces the performances to shouting and cliches.

On the other hand Conrad W. Hall's cinematography is excellent, flattening New Orleans in the background, and essentially creating an oppressive and generic geographical location that could be anywhere yet is always just out of reach, something which works in tandem with Hoolihan's repressed memories.

With the identity of the killer proving so banal (and so predictable), the film essentially tasks its metaphysical component with the heavy lifting. However, despite creating a dream-like narrative, always receding from the viewer, Morley can't cut loose of the shackles of genre, with the film's last act falling back on melodrama and coincidence. Ultimately, we're left with a film where nothing emerges fully formed. If it's really about Hoolihan's existential discovery of self, why is psychological nuance utterly absent? If it's a murder mystery, why is it so predictable? If it's an esoteric rumination about eternity, why are so many of the necessary components presented in such a simplistic manner? Morley's themes and tones end up tripping over and undermining one another, as she fails to integrate the metaphysical concepts with the murder plot, and all in all, it's a misfire for a heretofore promising director.
May 11, 2019
Once again we see how the dumb-as-a-box-of-frogs "critics" have completely missed the point. It seems that if a movie dares demonstrates the slightest amount of intelligence, of expects its audience to "gasp" think, it gets panned.

This is a great movie, thought provoking, beautifully shot, well acted and directed that takes the viewer on a voyage of exploration.

If you're a brainless chimp, don't bother watching it, if, however, you're willing to be transported and have your mind actually stimulated, then this is definitely a movie for you.
April 15, 2019
This was an excellent film noir. As usual most critics mistake perfectly realistic psychological subtlety and depth for absurd confusion. This film could certainly have been written by Ross Macdonald as it has languid pacing and double-barrelled plotlines, one external and one internal, gradually receding into one another. It's a beautiful and revealing dance and anyone who complains it 'didn't make sense' or that they couldn't figure out 'whodunnit' is either being wilfully blind or just dense.

Above all this film features a stunning performance by the always great but too rarely seen Patricia Clarkson, who offers a sensational portrayal of a hardboiled detective burdened with a secret so dark she doesn't even know it herself. Her gradual unravelling of the mystery of her self as she pursues a serial killer is enacted with beauty, melancholy and fear in equal measure.

The story is classic noir, but also a sort of intimate Apocalpyse Now/Heart of Darkness, as the closer she gets to solving the crime the deeper she approaches her own heart of darkness. It's far from a unique plot, but rarely is it explored and enacted with so much restraint and taut realism. Even Clarkson's temporary psychic glitches feel as real as a resurfacing memory, rather than strange as a cardboard hollywood dream.

All in all, if you like your noir with less macho posturing and more steely women, saying little but palpably feeling and seeing everything, then Out of Blue is for you.
April 4, 2019
I really want to like this stylised but fragmented whodunit based on a Martin Amis novel in which the always watchable Patricia Clarkson is cast as the film noir detective that's normally a white man. Investigating the death of an astrophysicist who also happens to be daughter of a famous local politician (played by James Caan), she finds echoes of a series of unsolved murders back in the 60s. While director Carol Morley brings a refreshingly feminine sensitivity to the material, her second hand David Lynchian touch can be frustrating as the audience is confused and bombarded with symbolism and metaphors that go nowhere and red herrings and misdirections (one of which seems to be a U-turn, even), which only goes to prove this is more of a case of style over substance. Despite a gamed cast that also includes an underused Toby Jones and a cuckoo Jacki Weaver as Caan's character's wife, and a half decent (though not terribly original or surprising) airport thriller plot, the film veers closer to an unintentional (and unfunny) parody and fails to deliver anything alternative or coherent enough to justify its peculiar style of storytelling. In fact, in its attempt to operate on many levels at the same time, the dreamy and abstract presentation ends up impeding, if not overcomplicating, the twisty crime thriller and we are left, much like why its title seems to be missing a 'the', with a pretentious and head-scratching mess.
April 3, 2019
The worst film I have ever seen.
½ March 31, 2019
I can't say I entirely disliked this film, but then again I can't say I understood it beyond anything more than surface level. One that may benefit from a repeat viewing.
March 27, 2019
This movie is just a hot mess.... it leaves you with more questions than answers and when it ends you will say "what"? If you are deeply into science ..you may like it a little more 1/2 Just way too much weirdness ..loose ends ...and parts that I have no clue why they were in the movie.
March 27, 2019
Great actors in what should have been a great story. But the director and editors lost the thread and ended up with an unfollowable movie that seemed way longer than it actually is.
½ March 26, 2019
Wow. One for more European audiences - too subtle for the average American. A metaphysical noir that leaves you thinking. Most might not get it at first, but might become a cult classic.
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