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Thursday, August 14, 2014

FORTY SHADES OF BLUE -- movie review by porfle

(NOTE: This review was originally posted at in 2006.)

FORTY SHADES OF BLUE (2005) won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, which just goes to show that the Sundance Film Festival probably isn't a very fun film festival to go to. In fact, they probably shouldn't use a term that's derived from the word "festive" in their name if this is the sort of film that turns their crank. Maybe "Sundance Film Ordeal" would be more fitting.

I'm not saying I hated or even actually disliked this movie, just that if I were on that jury I wouldn't have voted for for something so slow and boring. The main credit for whatever interest I had in it goes to the two lead actors, especially the great Rip Torn as Alan James, a Memphis music-biz legend with a long career as a top rhythm and blues performer and record producer.

Offstage and away from his admiring public, he tends to be a puerile old fart who throws tantrums in the recording studio and can only relate in a meaningful way with groupies and little kids, such as his three-year-old son, Sam, with whom he gleefully plays children's games.

Sam's mother is Alan's current love interest, Laura, a wispy, introspective Russian beauty who met him while he was on a business trip in Moscow. Laura is played by Dina Korzun, who is another reason this movie is as watchable as it is. At first I didn't like her distant, disaffected manner much, but eventually I began to appreciate Korzun's eccentric acting style more and more as she slowly revealed the nuances of her character.

Laura's main problem is that she doesn't really love Alan anymore, and is tired of being left alone at parties and stood up for dinner dates while Alan wanders off with his latest sexual distraction. She tolerates this because he actually loves her in his own way, and because he gives her a pampered lifestyle she never could've had back in Russia, but without even realizing it she's begun to yearn for something more. Which is where Alan's son comes into the picture.

Michael (Darren E. Burrows of TV's "Northern Exposure") is Alan's semi-estranged offspring from a former marriage, whom Dad has invited to come help him celebrate his winning a lifetime achievement award of some sort, and also to hopefully patch things up between them. Well, before you can say "wuh-woh", Michael and Laura start to develop feelings for each other that soon lead to clandestine bed-ins in various hotel rooms. Yes, of all people, they "complete" each other.

Although, of course, their unlikely relationship is doomed from the start. To make things worse, Michael really cares for his wife, who is pregnant with their first child, and Alan, bless his heart, has chosen this unfortunate moment in time to finally, and very publicly, ask Laura to marry him--even though he's beginning to suspect that things between Laura and Michael are getting disturbingly intimate.

Burrows isn't very interesting as Michael--he may resemble a young Michael Parks, but his morose presence is far removed from Parks' inventively oddball acting style. Dina Korzun is rather fascinating to watch as the movie progresses and Laura becomes more and more conflicted, until finally she is unable to hide an overwhelming despair.

But it's Rip Torn's performance that is the main reason to stick it out all the way to the end. He's a great actor, and makes the most of his character. When Alan finally realizes that he's lost Laura--probably his one true love in life--for good, Rip makes us feel it.

All artsy-fartsy trappings aside, FORTY SHADES OF BLUE is pure soap opera--an updated version of the kind of stuff people like Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson used to star in--but it's pretty good soap opera if you can just stay awake long enough to see it through. I didn't like the abrupt ending very much, though, because just when it started getting good, it was over. Hmm...I couldn't wait for this movie to end, but it ended too soon? Talk about conflicted.

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