Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

If I ever had the chance to talk to Forest Whitaker, which I can’t see happening unless he drives by my corner where I spontaneously clean peoples windshields, I would ask him why he seems to gravitate towards these deep thinking ensemble dramas with ‘Powder Blue’ being like the fourth one of these I’ve seen the man do in the last couple of years. ‘Winged Creatures’, ‘Air I Breathe’ and ‘Even Money’ in addition to ‘Powder Blue’ and even to an extent ‘Vantage Point’ are all tales of people loosely connected to by some event or tragedy revealing some greater purpose. Of the one’s I’ve seen director Timothy Linh Bui’s is probably the best of the lot, but for a movie as depressing realistic as this one seemed it was trying to be, it looked like it chose to cop out at the last minute.

So we have this eclectic group of people to follow around. There’s Charlie (Whitaker) who is desperately looking for somebody to take his life since suicide is out of the question. He even has fifty grand in his ride to give to this person. Charlie is distraught because apparently his brand new wife died while he was doing some stupid stuff. If texting and driving is dumb, then this is short bus material for real. Personally I was thinking Charlie should just suck it up and move on with this life, that was until he turned his little handy cam on his new wife revealing her to be Sanaa Lathan. Now I’m feeling your pain brother. Better to end it all than go through eternity knowing I screwed that good thing up.

Next we have Rose Johnny (Jessica Biel), a coked out stripper with a comatose child and worst yet, her dog is missing. Johnny just wants her son to be well and to hopefully find a man who will treat her well, but the fact that she’s on coke, is a charter member of the sex industry and dresses like a tramp on dates isn’t doing her any favors in this pursuit. What Johnny doesn’t know is that the father she thought had died before she was born, Jack (Ray Liotta), is out of jail after taking one for the team and accepting the full penal brunt of some crime twenty five years ago. Jack would like to reconnect with his daughter but is not quite sure how to do it. In retrospect paying for a private room lap dance probably wasn’t the best move.

Finally there’s Qwerty (Eddie Redmayne), a mortician about to lose his business, has a very strong affinity towards puppets and has an unfortunate type of asthma which causes him to get light headed and pass out when he talks to girls. Now I hate to forecast and spoil stuff but Qwerty does get to get naked with Jessica Biel in this movie and somehow that didn’t cause him to pass out. I mean I nearly passed out trying to type that and I don’t have any kind of asthma issues.

So all these people and their incredibly depressing lives intersect and intertwine as they try to find some kind of meaning for this misery that has been trust upon them. As it turns out if they can just hold of for, heck I don’t know, 106 minutes… things will get better and the meanings will be come crystal clear.

I kind of liked ‘Powder Blue’ a little bit. Director Timothy Linh Bui has a good feel for the camera, the cinematography was on point with the gritty unfeeling look it had to it and the performances by the cast were uniformly excellent in my opinion. I particularly liked the smaller roles turned in by Lisa Kudrow, again proving herself be the most talented of all the ‘Friends’ by far, Kris Kristofferson who is apparently as old as he’s gonna get, Alejandro Romero as a tortured tranny and a completely unrecognizable Patrick Swayze as a sleazy strip club owner. Seriously, I didn’t know it was Swayze until the credits rolled and then I had to back track to make sure they were telling the truth.

What kept me from liking ‘Powder Blue’ a lot more is the near epic country song-esque tragedies that our characters were suffering through. Things get so bad in these characters lives that at times it actually becomes funny. I know I wasn’t supposed to be laughing but come on… the lost puppy, the stolen car, the dude with colon cancer getting punched in his colon… I’m sorry but that was a little bit too much junk to be happening to the same loosely connected people at the same time for it not to be funny. This leads to the biggest problem I had with ‘Powder Blue’ which was the way everything just kind of fell right in place at the very end. SPOILER TIME!!! DON’T READ NO FURTHER… Sure the colon infected dude and his comatose grandson die. Fairly horribly in both cases but heck, they do get to go to Heaven. Seriously. Yeah the stripper lost her son but somehow all her bills are paid and all she wants to do is go to Paris with someone she loves and damn if that doesn’t happen. Yes our distraught dude lost his wife but she fortuitously tells him, in a sunny dream from Heaven again, that it’s all good and she’s in Heaven waiting for him. In the meantime Lisa Kudrow is available on earth to salve those wounds. Admittedly she might not be quite a lateral move, but believe me, she’ll do. And sure the weird dude lost his mortuary business but now he gets to play with his beloved puppets 24-7 AND sleep with the crazy hot stripper every night for the rest of his life, that is as long he promises never to leave. Yeah, like that clown is going ANYWHERE.

Recently I saw a somewhat similar themed Canadian movie called ‘This Beautiful City’ which while as depressing as any movie ever, but it stayed true to its theme unlike this movie which chose to put a sunny gloss on a terrible situation. Where I come from we call that copping out. Still I did like this movie enough to recommend it a little bit, despite the filmmakers not respecting us enough to think we can’t handle the heavy stuff.

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