Out of the Blue Film Details
Overview: A young girl whose father is an ex-convict and whose mother is a junkie finds it difficult to conform and tries to find comfort in a quirky combination of Elvis and the punk scene.
Tagline: A harrowing drama from the director of Easy Rider
Review: Out of the Blue is a rather offbeat movie that demonstrates a lot of both the benefits and the pitfalls of “method” acting. On the one hand, Linda Manz as the troubled and whimsical adolescent CB and Dennis Hopper as her father did do some amazing acting in this movie; on the other, it’s not really clear what their acting accomplished. “Nihilistic” doesn’t begin to describe how utterly pointless this whole movie seems. Classifying it isn’t incredibly easy either; “slice of life” might be a good working description, though we aren’t given much to describe. On the writers’ end, giving a critique of the storytelling first requires asking: what is this movie’s story? To be sure, it has continuity: it remains focused mainly on C.B. and her father, and most of the events in the movie are shown in chronological order, with the exception of a few flashbacks. Calling all of this a “story” requires us, however, to go with a terribly loose definition of the word, specifically “stuff that happens followed by other stuff that happens.” C.B. and her father do stuff and stuff happens, but none of this stuff ever seems to be going anywhere. Character development is exceedingly minimal, plot development non-existent; there’s no climax, and no real resolution. To be sure, some of the individual events are interesting to watch; my favorite scene in the whole movie is the one in which CB’s father gets fired from his job at the garbage dump after an old enemy badmouths him to his supervisor, and then he promptly takes his revenge by plowing over the supervisor’s shack with his bulldozer. This incident occurs entirely without any audible dialogue, since all the noise the bulldozer is making would only drown it out anyway. Each of the actors involved therefore is left to demonstrate everything they’re doing and saying through body language while a tragic song about the hopelessness of seeking forgiveness from merciless people blares over the soundtrack; at this, I must admit, all three of them did an excellent job. I must also concede Linda Manz does an amazing job playing herself as the rough-cut CB who copes with her horrendously dysfunctional family life through regressing to childish fidgeting and thumb-sucking, immersing herself in Elvis and Johnny Rotten and punk rock culture, and reciting rambling phrases that initially sound profound (“subvert normality”) but really aren’t. From what the director’s commentary says, Linda Manz’s actual life was apparently just as horrendous as CB’s, though it also says that she eventually married and settled down and had five kids. Really, this just makes her brilliant performance here more tragic in hindsight, since her character CB deserved a better ending too. The real problem with this movie is not how bleak and depressing it is, or its extremely downbeat ending, or even the nearly constant stream of foul language everyone insists on using (though these things certainly don’t make it any more entertaining to watch). No, its fatal flaw is simply that it never really accomplishes anything. There’s no lesson for us here; nothing to be gained emotionally or intellectually by watching the lives of CB, her chronically alcoholic low-life father, and her chronically adulterous junkie of a mother gradually implode. For all their self-destructive behavior throughout the film, the murder-suicide ending seems rather forced, like a second-hand joke in which the teller has forgotten the original punchline and can’t think of a new one. As Ben Bova once noted, suicide is the coward’s way out for writers as well as their characters; as such, this movie takes the coward’s way out. Moreover, while the method acting greatly enhances the credibility and spontaneity of the characters, having the director be similarly laid-back and spontaneous produces rather mixed results. Concerning the supposed incestuous subtext between CB and her father, for instance, I honestly don’t see any until near the end, when he starts drunkenly jabbering about CB’s sexual inexperience and calling for his drinking buddy Charlie to take her virginity. Up until then, CB and her father seem to be rather friendly with each other, the only indication that her affection for him is going sour also being near the end when her counselor Dr. Brean can’t get her to tell him why she’s cut her father out of her plans for the future. If anything, the creepy scene in which she finally slays her father doesn’t seem to be an act of revenge at all, but a preemptive strike. The director’s commentary notes that Sharon Farrell, who plays CB’s mother, was actually flubbing her line and speaking out of turn when she starts weeping and saying she doesn’t want her daughter “to be a dyke” while she’s arguing with her husband. If so, the director was being rather lazy not to re-shoot the scene, or at least edit that part of the footage out in post-production. As it stands, this scene suggests that the mother was making a wholly credible prediction that such a “corrective” rape would only push CB that much further into “dyke” territory. The director’s commentary also reveals that the original script for this movie was supposed to have Dr. Brean rescue CB by helping her break herself free from her dysfunctional family, and that they never told Raymond Burr, who played him, that they had abandoned this plot and this wasn’t really his movie anymore. To be sure, maybe this original ending might have been a little too upbeat to be a credible ending to this movie; real-life problems tend to be too complicated to lend themselves to solutions simple enough to require only ninety minutes on a movie screen to portray. Considering the movie these actors and actresses ended up making instead, however, I’m inclined to think the movie would have been better had they at least tried to make the original ending work, even if they’d failed. Alas, we’ll probably never know now.
Duration: 94 min
Also known as: Οι ξεγραμμένοι,Out of the Blue,No Looking Back,CeBe,Как гром среди ясного неба,Fuera de control,Explodierende Träume,Out of the Blue – Garçonne,Dynamit Punk,Anos de Rebeldia,No looking back,Plus rien à perdre,Tyttö nimeltä Cebe,アウト・オブ・ブルー,Caído del cielo,Angústia de Viver,Snack bar blues,Rebelde sin destino