Out of Blue movie review: murder most muted

part of my Directed by Women series
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Out of Blue red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

A limp noodle of a cinematic noir that drains Patricia Clarkson of her usual eccentric charisma. And where it aims for intriguingly oblique pseudoscientific philosophizing, it ends up merely obtuse.
I’m “biast” (pro): I’m desperate for movies by and about women; love Patricia Clarkson
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
I have not read the source material
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
female director, female screenwriter, female protagonist
(learn more about this)

An astrophysicist with a funky retro style, Jennifer Rockwell (Mamie Gummer: Ricki and the Flash), is found shot to death in her New Orleans observatory the morning after she gives a melancholy lecture on how we are all stardust. Alcoholic homicide detective Mike Hoolihan (Patricia Clarkson: The Bookshop) catches the case, which may or may not bear certain similarities to the murders of a long-ago, never-caught serial killer.

British writer-director Carol Morley, with her first film set outside the UK, has transformed Martin Amis’s novel Night Train into a limp noodle of a cinematic noir that, most criminally, drains the usually marvelous Clarkson of her deliciously eccentric charisma. But only slightly less criminal is how Out of Blue attempts a slow-burn mix of pseudoscientific philosophizing about “dark matter” and “dark energy” with Hoolihan’s beyond-clichéd worn-out-cop psyche and the usual ugly human impulses that drive the crimes explored here. Weirdly unconvincing meanderings about multiverses and Schroedinger’s cat meld with Hoolihan’s swiss-cheese memory and addled perception: she sees bits of crime-scene evidence that aren’t there, and may or may not be having imaginary conversations with a TV reporter (Devyn A. Tyler: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) for our expository benefit.

The rather remarkable cast — which also includes Toby Jones (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), James Caan (The Tale of the Princess Kaguya), and Jacki Weaver (Widows) — all seem at a loss, shuffling through the film as if they, too, can’t quite see how all the threads are meant to hang together either. In trying to be intriguingly oblique, the whole sad endeavor ends up merely dreary and obtuse. But hey, with a female filmmaker, the obligatory strip-club scene features zero naked tits. So that’s something, at least.

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