"Powder Blue" Blu-ray Review
May 15, 2009 by Zach Demeter
Never heard of Powder Blue? Well how about that film where Jessica Biel sheds her clothes? Yeah that’s this one. And no it didn’t ever go to theaters and in fact it seems to have just gone straight to DVD and Blu-ray, despite a hefty and intriguing cast that includes Ray Liotta, , Kris Krisofferson, Lisa Kudrow, Patrick Swayze, and even Oscar winner Forest Whittaker. It’s an incredibly robust cast, but even that couldn’t save this film from the critical reception that this film received—what little of it that it did, anyway.
On the gritty streets of LA, the destinies of four people desperate for connection and redemption are about to collide. Jessica Biel, Ray Liotta, Forest Whitaker and Eddie Redmayne lead a top-notch cast in this powerful thriller about an overwhelmed erotic dancer, a grieving husband who has lost his will to live, a terminally ill ex-con and a pathologically shy mortician. With Kris Kristofferson, Lisa Kudrow and Patrick Swayze in unforgettable supporting roles, this film movingly chronicles the imperfect lives of people teetering on the edge of despair and the miracles that bring them back.
If this film looks like something similar to The Air I Breathe or any other number of “ of strangers lives intertwine with one another for ” other films that have come down the pike then…well, you’re right. This movie is very similar to those, only this time around the film may as well just be two separate stories as for the life of me I cannot find the thread that connects all of the stories in this film together. At least in even something like Babel I was slightly clear on the undercurrent, but here this isn’t even being the least bit helpful as I honestly have no idea what this films underlying story is.
Take even the insignificant roles such as Patrick Swayze. Why is he here? Sure he looks good with his shirt off and he’s incredibly freaky looking, but the most we ever see of him is him getting a little servicing from one of his stripper workers in the dressing room. He treats Jessica Biel’s character like crap and…really, that’s all he’s here for. So what significance does his role play? None that I can see. Nor does Forest Whitaker or Lisa Kudrow’s characters, who, despite interacting with one another, seem to be off in their own separate universe. We don’t even get the characters even remotely passing in proximity of anyone else either, which makes it all the more confusing. Strictly speaking this film is just a combination of character studies that have nothing (on the surface) to deal with one another. Are they all looking for companionship and love in some way? Sure. But…really, isn’t everyone? Also the significance of blue snow is lost on me as well and it only made me want to eat a blue raspberry snow cone, which is unfortunate because I can’t think of anyone around here that serves them.
So was there anything redeeming in this film? Maybe. I won’t deny that it was acted well and that the stories here were at least intriguing. But I honestly have nothing outside of that to say. Why Jessica Biel chose this film to shed her clothing for I’ve no idea, as while her character is a conflicted mother trying everything to save her son, there is…really nothing unique to set her role apart from any other. I could literally pluck Marissa Tomei’s character from The Wrestler and almost perfectly transplant her into this film, the differences are that negligible. Hell they even take their top off, so that’s another thing in common too.
I will say that Biel’s first appearance on stage was quite a visual treat. No that’s not meant to sound perverted, the first “stripper” scene in the film is actually her swinging around in some kind of cloth hanging from the ceiling and it’s actually a very beautifully choreographed piece, but…that’s really the only time we’ll see “beautiful” in this film. The rest of the time strippers are just dancing around or, in Biel’s case later on in the film, splashing liquid wax on their bodies for…some reason. Erotic? Erm, ok.
Also there’s the relationship between Biel and Eddie Redmayne (as Qwerty Doolittle. Seriously? Did you just type the top left of the keyboard and call it a day?) that really comes out of nowhere and makes little sense. They’re kindred spirits in that they’re both looking for companionship but…seriously, again, is that all? How random is it to hug and then have sex with the person who found your dog and kept it for weeks because he was lonely? Where does that make sense? And how are you OK with him just walking into your motel room while you’re sitting naked in the bathtub and him washing you? Just…what the hell.
Quirky, strange, moving…whatever, I don’t know what to call this film. It started out solidly enough and I particularly enjoyed Ray Liotta’s performance for what it was worth, but there’s really nothing in this film that warrants the near two hours it runs. It’s a series of short stories about individuals that’s merged together into a film for whatever reason.
I get that symbolism was supposed to take high priority here, but it was just too much at times. I kept waiting for all of their worlds to meet up with one another but…nope. There wasn’t even that cheap trick. It’s an incredibly frustrating film if only because it’s filled with great performances that ultimately mean nothing as the film goes nowhere. Hell the only thing I could gather from the film that even kind of said they were even in the same city was the blue snow at the end.
Overall Powder Blue has potential…but it’s ultimately squandered in whatever overblown sense of high-art it tries to be. Worth a Rental for the performances, but sadly this film will never be known as nothing more than “that one where Biel got naked.”
Image Entertainment tosses Powder Blue on Blu-ray in a standard Elite Blu-ray case with a two-sided jacket (the interior shot is of Forest Whittaker in the church). No paper inserts are included and the menu is simple and easy to navigate. The AVC encoded 1080p transfer is a mixed bag, as despite being a Blu-ray and nearly two hours long, the transfer takes up under 20gb of space (I think it was something near 15gb actually). This wouldn’t be a problem of course if it didn’t inflict damage onto the print itself, but it does in many cases. Although the grain levels on this film are almost absurd at times (it spikes ridiculously on the beach shots with Liotta), there is just a ton of compression artifacts that latch onto the grain to make for a marred image. There’s no real reason why it couldn’t have been made to look better. As for the sound, a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is also overkill, as it’s mostly just talking in the film aside from the near-metal sounding soundtrack that kicks in during high tension moments. Also included is a standard DD5.1 mix as well as English and Spanish subtitles.
Extras include a Commentary with director Timothy Linh Bui and producer Tracee Stanley. This is a slightly enjoyable track just because we get into the head of Bui a bit more than the film itself let us, but ultimately it’s about as entertaining as you’d expect a commentary on a mediocre film to be. Also included is a quick Making Of (17:04, SD) as well as a Photo Gallery and Trailer for the film.
Overall a fair release for a film that received no theatrical release, but you can pretty much peg the quality of this one from the box art alone. Intriguing, but it’s ultimately Biel’s breasts that drawn you to the cover…and that’s ultimately all you’ll gain from the film itself. Rent It if you must.
Powder Blue arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on May 26th.