Film Review: Out Of Blue

Writer-director Carol Morley’s Out of Blue is an atmospheric mystery. Although it is imperfect, the film has enough to commend it.

A the body of a prominent astrophysicist is found in an observatory. Detective Mike Hoolihan leads the investigation, and finds herself more involved than expected…

Based on Martin Amis’ Night Train, Carol Morley offers a decent hook with Out of Blue. Viewers are presented with a grisly crime scene, and a detective intent into solving the case. The mystery in the film is multi-layered. There is the mystery of identity of the killer, and this is the focus of Morley’s film for the first half.

When the mystery is seemingly solved, protagonist Mike refuses to stop investigating, focusing on the Rockwell family. The further, more ethereal mystery is Mike’s connection to the case. Morley presents what seems to be visions, keeping viewers guessing as to exactly what Mike is seeing and hearing.

Protagonist Mike Hoolihan is well drawn. A hardboiled detective, who is also a recovering alcoholic, Mike at first seems like an archetype. Yet she develops into a much more three-dimensional character as narrative progresses. Her relentlessness is both endearing and frustrating. The cast of characters is a highlight of Out of Blue. The minor characters, sometimes eccentric, provide a good contrast to the sombre personalities of Mike and the other detectives. 

The first third of Out of Blue is holds the attention. The crime and the investigation is engaging as the cast of characters is revealed. There is a bit of a sag in the middle section of the film, once the crime has been solved yet Mike will not let go of the case. The film recovers from this in the final act, as Mike starts to draw conclusions, and act on them. Although it is signposted much earlier, the climax of the film is still satisfying.

Performances in the film are good all round. Patricia Clarkson makes a believable weathered detective, whilst Jacki Weaver and James Caan stand out as the victim’s parents. Devyn A. Tyler is also decent in a supporting role. The use of music does a great deal to create atmosphere.

With The Falling and now Out of Blue, Carol Morley is carving out a niche in mysterious with an otherworldly feel. It will be interesting to see what she tackles next.

Out of Blue is out on DVD, Blu-ray, and Digital on 2nd September 2019.

Film Review: Friends with Benefits

Friends with Benefits is a lot of fun. Like its protagonists, the film is imperfect. Nonetheless, it is still a very enjoyable romantic comedy.

Both recently out of relationships, headhunter Jamie meets creative director Dylan as she tries to persuade him to take a job with GQ Magazine. The two become friends, as they bond over their mutual derision of romantic clichés. One evening, Dylan and Jamie decide that no strings sex won’t complicate their friendship. The arrangement works, but only temporarily…

Friends with Benefits is very funny in places. The humour is consistent, which makes the film more enjoyable throughout. It can be crass at times, but this isn’t a bad thing. The comedy is always on the money.

Will Gluck’s film is particularly interesting as it overtly references many romantic-comedy clichés. Friends with Benefits playfully makes fun of these conventions, and even at the stars of recent rom-coms. Nevertheless, the second half of the film then adheres to these same stereotypical traits. It is a little disappointing that Friends with Benefits does not try to be a bit more original in this respect. The sense of predictability is however outweighed by the comedy; the numerous laughs negate the lack of innovation.

Part of the reason that Gluck’s film works so well is that the characters are likeable. Dylan and Jamie are believable in their relationship; their interactions appear natural and spontaneous. Moreover, the supporting characters function well to keep the emphasis on the two protagonists while providing some back-story.

Another interesting facet of Friends with Benefits is its use of technology. The film is very contemporary, with its reliance on mobile phones and the internet as integral to the narrative. It is also rather amusing that T-Mobile is slated in the film, and yet the flash mobs (which the company used to publicise its campaigns) are used to great affect.

Performances in the film are good. Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis have great chemistry, which makes them very easy to watch. Both seem to have a flair for this type of comedy. Elsewhere, Patricia Clarkson delivers a star turn as Lorna and Emma Stone is fantastic in the opening scene.

The soundtrack to the film is also very good. Music is used to great effect, as well as being referenced within the film.  All in all, Friends with Benefits is a bit of a rarity; a formulaic rom-com that will actually make you laugh.

Film Review: Whatever Works

Woody Allen’s Whatever Works, released only recently in the UK, sees a return to form for one of cinema’s most industrious directors and screenwriters.

Boris is an aging, cynical New Yorker set in his ways. When he decides to let a young runaway stay at his apartment, the two form an unlikely friendship, influencing each others’ long-standing beliefs…

Taking the action back to New York was a good move by Allen; it is the setting of some of his best work, after all. Not only is the city presented in an aesthetically pleasing manner, but it also acts as a powerful force within the movie. New York offers the freedom for people to truly be themselves, or at least this is what Whatever Works suggests. 

Allen is back on top form with his writing. The dialogue of Whatever Works showcases his talents at their best; it is witty and intelligent, yet relatable. Unfortunately the director does not appear in this film. He is, however, manifest in the character of Boris; the idiosyncrasies, the neuroses and the attitude is plain to see.

Larry David does an excellent job as protagonist Boris. At times an unlikeable character, nevertheless there is something intensely human (that is to say fallible) about him, which makes it easy to relate to him. Rachel Evan Wood gives a good performance as the young Melody, and Patricia Clarkson excels in her supporting role.

Whatever Works, like most Woody Allen films, won’t appeal to everyone. However, it is both an enjoyable and a well-made film. Unlike so much of mainstream Hollywood’s recent output, the film offers good writing, good performances, and that crucial element of originality.

Whilst last year’s Vicky Christina Barcelona was a cut above a lot of other releases, it lacks the warmth that emanates from Whatever Works. At the beginning, Boris tells the audience that this isn’t a “feel-good film”. But it really is, as the underlying premise is an immensely positive one. By this standard, Allen’s next release, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, is eagerly anticipated.