I’m sorry guys, I really am. I got as far as having my seat booked for Dumbo, but one final watch of the trailer sealed it for me, I just can’t bring myself to experience that kind of heartbreak all over again. Fool me once, Disney, fool me once. I’m busy preparing myself for the live action Lion King for god’s sake, I can’t expose my mental health to the cutest, most tragic CGI elephant of all time so soon beforehand! Thankfully, there were a few other options this week, though what it says about me that I would happily rather experience a potentially grizzly murder mystery than the threat of a sad animated animal, I don’t know…
My Dumbo avoidance came on the form of Out Of Blue, a neo-noir crime thriller with existential and experimental sensibilities. The audience follows Detective Mike Hoolihan (Patricia Clarkson), a weathered New Orleans cop with a mysterious past and an alcohol problem who takes on the case of a murdered astrophysicist (Mamie Gummer). As the investigation deepens and the twists roll out, both Mike and the audience discover together that her past and the current crime may be more closely linked that she could ever have imagined.
There are some things that I really like about Out Of Blue, and then there are some things that I really don’t. In terms of the central police procedural, it feels vaguely familiar, with plenty of the damaged cops, family secrets, personal demons, false suspects that you have seen a million times before. However, the element of astrophysics within the narrative brings a slightly different feel to the thriller, as through the murder victim’s profession, many existential theories and discussions are brought forward between characters that you don’t usually see in a story like this. The filmmakers take a few risks with their aesthetic at times, verging on an almost science fiction type vibe which I appreciate brings something slightly fresh to proceedings.
In many ways, the film reminds me of Destroyer from earlier in the year, and leaves you with the feeling that just because a picture goes against the grain in terms of gender casting, it doesn’t mean that everything else can be played so generically and still make for a great movie. Out Of Blue is completely fine, and the more experimental aspects of the direction will either turn you off or turn you on, but I can’t say that it’s anything more than just an interesting but unextraordinary thriller.
The most entertaining aspect of the film, for me at least, is the performance of Patricia Clarkson. As Detective Mike Hoolihan, she thrives on giving us all of the classic ‘grizzled cop’ cliches, bad interpersonal relationships, drinking problem, tendency to break the rules etc. I can’t lie, I don’t have much time for these kinds of tropes when it’s just another gruff male actor playing the part, but when the character is female, there is an added point of interest for me. Sexist? Maybe, but I give me Clarice Starling over some macho Mark Wahlberg vehicle anyway.
Clarkson really sets the mood for the film as a whole, she has a lot of swag and a lot of silent presence, one of those characters who never has her eyes fully open, always weighing up one theory or another. Simultaneously fighting their own personal demons alongside their desire to ‘do the job’ at any cost. It isn’t a character or performance style that nobody has seen before, but when it is presented by an actress of Clarkson’s quality, there is something really enjoyable about it even if the overall material she’s working with isn’t the best.
The film boasts a rather shockingly high calibre supporting cast including the likes of Toby Jones and Mamie Gummer, alongside bonafide legends like Jacki Weaver and James Caan. Everyone does a solid job, but it really is the kind of movie that lives and dies by the pull that the leading actor can have, and thankfully, Patricia Clarkson really holds up her end of the bargain.
Overall, Out Of Blue isn’t going to be the kind of movie that everyone enjoys, it feels like it is half way between being a really generic neo-noir crime thriller and an odd, experimental, existential drama. It’s an interesting combination but I’m not sure it’s a combination that makes for the most well flowing and accessible viewing. I’m glad to have seen Patricia Clarkson’s performance, but for a film less than two hours in length, it didn’t half feel like a long watch. And as for that damn cute big eared elephant, our meeting will eventually come. In the comfort of my own home, when I can fast forward through the trauma!