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Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Retro Review: Powder Blue (2008)

Power Blue
Cast: Jessica Biel, Forest Whitaker, Patrick Swayze, Ray Liotta, Alejandro Romero, Kris Kristofferson, Sanaa Nathan 
Genre: Drama

Plot: Four Los Angelenos, a mortician, an ex-con, a suicidal ex-priest and a stripper, are brought together on Christmas Eve by a mixture of circumstances 

'Grim and Ambitious As It Tries To Be, Yet Comes Across As Jarring & Desperate'

Originally touted for a theatrical release in the U.S, Powder Blue never got one and was sent straight to DVD, as this B-movie Crash/Magnolia, in reference to the Paul Haggis Oscar-nominated flick, goes for the gritty, realistic feel. Only for director/writer Timothy Linh Bui to botch things up.

Powder Blue centers on the emotionally-wounded characters and the confusing and convoluted trials and tribulations of those involved: a female stripper strips to pay the bills but who is also a drug addict, an ex-con father trying to connect with her, a former priest still coming to terms with his wife's death. An ex-priest struggles to move on after losing his wife in a car crash that sends him on a suicidal downward spiral he wants to commit suicide, not to mention a mortician who bonds with dead people, as he can't get a girlfriend.

Biel gyrates and goes all striptease of Demi Moore; she has never been a consistent performer with a strong onscreen presence and many of her efforts are drab and poor (The A-Team, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, Total Recall, New Year's Eve to name); here, she tries to be convincing and oh so serious by going down the serial drama path, but sadly due to the poor and turgid writing it ensures that she looked out of place here as the coke-snorting stripper mum, Scarlett trying to make ends meet for her son and personally speaking, this wasn't the right vehicle for her and unlike many other actresses who try their hands at grittier, darker roles, Biel overacts and isn't able to pull it off thoroughly and plus, this will be sadly long remembered as the film where she takes her clothes off, more so than for any other reason. There is an uncomfortable scene where she dances seductively for her, erm, dad played by Goodfellas's Ray Liotta, and she turns him on. One also has to question why Forest Whitaker and Ray Liotta, who were both doing well in the 1980s and 1990s would accept offers to appear in something as low-par and unexceptional as this.

The four main characters are unlikeable, not redeemable for me to take a liking to and lack depth with almost nothing personalities; Whitaker's character's story is tragic and sad but the manner he acts becomes increasingly tedious and irritating. Biel's part could have been easily taken up by another actress.

Friends' Lisa Kudrow as the good-natured waitress Sally in a small cameo role does well, that in all honesty, I'd like to have seen her as one of the major characters in Powder Blue. It made me wished it centred around her Meanwhile, Patrick Swayze who looks like a character from the comedy, Burt Wonderstone with the long, blond hair, bare chest and weird goatee goes all mean and nasty as Scarlett's strip boss, and it was, sort of intriguing. Also of note, his brother, Don is also in this too as one of the bouncers at the club. There is also a White character with corn rolls who speaks with a Jamaican accent, for some odd, unexplained reason. Which I found was weird and Alejandro Romero as a transvestite, Lexus, camps it up.

Aside from the much- talked about Jessica Biel scantily clad and topless nude scenes, which during the film's release in 2009, resulted in the humiliating leaked topless photos doing the rounds on the web and social media, and the poor title itself, Powder Blue tries to be dark, gritty, serious to attract adult audiences - only it is pretentious, mostly garbled and it has nothing else going for it, whatsoever. The performances as a whole are nothing to shout about, it felt like as I watched this that the actors who got involved took part, probably because it was different and low-key to anything they have done before.

Though the drama aspect becomes more engaging, Powder Blue's tonality is utterly bleak and not the least bit feel-good. Film-wise, it is a sheer waste of the talents of those involved and the juggling of the characters' subplots and plights is both tone-deaf and doesn't amount to anything worthwhile or fulfilling and they fail to interconnect. Instead of tugging at the heartstrings and trying to make me emphasise with the characters and their fates as it should do, the film just didn't try hard enough to make that emotional connection truly count but instead piles on the grim scenes, one by one.

This is a jarring, desperate and almost hollow film with underdeveloped characters with a tone that teeters on nonsensical - in the sense that the storylines and the way they interconnect are so convoluted they fail to gel together. Timothy Linh Bui manages to ratchet things up, despite the severe lack of substance it has. To think this would be Oscar bait worthy or intended to be up for several awards, I couldn't see it, as there is very, very little of value and recognition here.

Final Verdict

Watching Powder Blue, I felt blue and whereas Crash might have caused a stir at the Oscars and Magnolia toes the same line, I'd take either of them over this.

This, on the other hand, is just a cluttered mess and so conspicuously unsatisfying & desperate, despite the cast's efforts. 


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