Monday, June 22, 2009

POWDER BLUE (now playing at home where your dog has just chewed the buttons off your favorite shirt)

Powder Blue is and indie film that has the key elements an R-rated feature SHOULD have-- that's nudity and cussing--PLUS an interesting cast, and a fairly compelling story to tell. It's sort of a poor man's Crash, as it follows the exploits of four lonely souls whose lives intertwine in L.A. during the holidays.

Forrest Whitaker is Charlie, an individual so messed up that he goes around offering strangers money to shoot him and put him out of his misery. If I see one more movie about somebody who wants to die because he screwed up his life (like this one and the disturbing Seven Pounds with Will Smith) I"m going to go jump off a building! Each of us needs to play the hand we were dealt, otherwise what kind of a damn Texas Hold 'em poker game would this be? Anyway, there's more to Charlie than what's revealed in the beginning. Whitaker, with an Oscar already resting on his mantle, works for his supper as a tortured soul who's reached the end of his rope.

Rose-Johnny (Jessica Biel) is a stripper, (and also desperate...for love) with a young son on a life support system and near death. On top of THAT, she loses her dog! Qwerty Doolittle, ( Eddie Redmayne-- and I think "Qwerty" must stand for quirky here) who works as an embalmer at a funeral home, finds the pooch and that initiates his connection to Rose-Johnny. By all appearances they're an unlikely pair, but my uncle Viggo used to eat cucumber and marshmallow sandwiches, so there's no accounting for taste.

Ray Liotta plays Jack Doheny, an ex-con whose poor health may send him to an early demise. Jack has a thing for Rose-Johnny and goes to see her at the strip club. He obtains a private session with her, then pushes her off of him when she's just doing her job by trying to get him all hot and bothered. Because the film did hold my interest, I'm giving Powder Blue a pass on some of its unrealistic elements--but THAT scene, and all the others like it in dozens of movies I've seen over the years where some guy "nobly" rejects the advances of a sexy woman because he just wants to TALK...well, I just sit there and yell at the screen: ARE YOU A MAN, OR WHAT? Of the four primary characters, Jack's motivations are the most baffling. He becomes a kind of sugar daddy to Rose-Johnny, who reluctantly relents to it, for a while. It seems that Jack may be trying to vicariously re-live his past with an old love through Rose-Johnny.

Patrick Swayze, Lisa Kudrow, and Kris Kristofferson all have minor roles. You've never seen Swayze as such a blatant stereotype, and may not recognize him at first. And I hate to say this, because I've always liked him as a song writer, but Kris Kristofferson is a crummy actor.

Besides the obvious comparison to Crash, Powder Blue also borrows from The Shining-- in a scene that I won't give away--but you'll recognize it.

In the end, some of these quirky folks find redemption and a chance to move on, while others end up face first in the crapper.

But that's L.A. for you.