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“Out Of Blue” Is A Hazy Procedural

Author Martin Amis just can’t catch a break when it comes to seeing his novels adapted for the big screen. Last year saw the atrocious London Fields not so much get released as it did escape development hell. Now, after playing at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, another Amis adaptation hits theaters. It’s Out of Blue, which mixes the investigation of a death with an exploration of astrophysics. If that sounds like a tough pill to swallow, it is. Despite some interesting moments, Out of Blue is too hazy about its themes to work and ends up frustrating way more than it entertains.

The movie is a police procedural, at least in name only, though it mixes in liberally some astrology chatter and other such astrophysical mumbo jumbo. When renowned astrophysicist and black hole expert Jennifer Rockwell (Mamie Gummer) is found shot to death in her observatory, an unconventional detective in Mike Hoolihan (Patricia Clarkson) is assigned to the case. As she begins looking in to the crime, she also begins contemplating heavier themes, including the very nature of the universe. At the same time, everyone involved in Jennifer’s life, from her father (James Caan), to her boyfriend (Jonathan Majors), to her boss (Toby Jones), brings about some level of suspicion. Suffice to say, Mike finds herself questioning everything, including her grip on reality. Weirdness ensues, obviously. Carol Morley writes and directs, while the supporting cast includes the likes of Brad Mann, Todd Mann, Yolonda Ross, Aaron Tveit, Jacki Weaver, and more. Conrad W. Hall provided the cinematography, while the score is composed by the terrific Clint Mansell.

Sadly, this film resides in no man’s land. Too somber to be much fun, it’s also too dumb to be fully engrossing. Patricia Clarkson puts forward good work, but she also doesn’t get to display too much in the way of personality here. Best in show, honestly, is Clint Mansell and his score. The ominous tones help elevate a number of scenes, before they descend into utter hokeyness. As for everyone else? They don’t leave much of an impression. The cast is under utilized, DP Conrad W. Hall gives the movie a very flat work, while filmmaker Carol Morley never quite gets her point across. It’s clearly a disappointment.

Out of Blue clearly wants to reside in David Lynch territory. Unfortunately, Morley never lets things get weird enough, so she falls well short of that ambitious mark. Mansell’s score does more work there than anything else. His music underscores the events of this flick, temporarily distracting you from how ridiculous things are getting. The worst part here? About a third of the way in, you realize that the characters here are mostly idiots. That torpedoes much of the interest in the plot. How can you care about the investigation when the script has the investigators act largely like dolts? The answer is…you just can’t. Hence, all the frustration with the potential that this work contained.

Starting today, Out of Blue is in theatrical release. Those of you down for something odd may want to give it a shot, though keep your expectations decidedly in check. Morley and company deserve some credit for going all out, ambition wise, but the execution is way off the mark. If you’re a hardcore Clarkson fan, you may check this out regardless of my thoughts, but this isn’t her finest work by any stretch. In the end, this movie just doesn’t really ever come together. It has moments of intrigue, but overall, it’s a film that never properly involves you in its mystery. What a shame…

Out of Blue is in theaters now!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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