Mamie Gummer

Out of Blue


Out of Blue is a bit of a conundrum, a real curate’s egg of a film. At times, its audacity is breathtakingly impressive; at others, its pretentious incoherence is, well, kind of annoying.

Patricia Clarkson is Detective Mike Hoolihan, a genre-typical detective with an alcohol problem and a troubled past. When astrophysicist Jennifer Rockwell (Mamie Gummer) is found dead next to her telescope, Mike notices similarities to a series of unsolved murders by the so-called .38 calibre killer. As she investigates, long-repressed childhood memories begin to resurface, and her composure fractures, leaving her vulnerable and exposed.

So far, so good, but of course Carol Morley was never going to embrace a straightforward whodunit crime procedural. Instead, we are treated to a philosophical musing on the nature of our place in the universe, looking outwards into the infinite vastness of a black hole, and inwards to the personal experiences that shape who we become. Stylistically, this works: the cinematography is sumptuous, and the blue-red colour palette is bold and arresting. But the endless banging on about Schrödinger’s cat gets a bit wearisome; this is entry level stuff given unwarranted gravitas. And the suggestion of parallel universes seems an unnecessary complication, adding little and muddying the plot.

I like the plot, actually, with its twisty ending (although presumably that’s down to Martin Amis, on whose novel this is based), and Patricia Clarkson’s performance is admirable here. Toby Jones is a welcome addition to any movie, and his depiction of Rockwell’s snivelling boss, Professor Ian Strammi, is no exception to this rule. Jacki Weaver never disappoints either, and she’s on top form as Rockwell’s flaky mother. But even these fine actors are not quite enough to save this film from its own sense of how clever it is. It’s all a bit show-offy for my taste.

3.4 stars

Susan Singfield

Ricki and the Flash



Let me start with a question. Is there any role on this planet that Meryl Streep can’t actually play? I only ask this because we’ve segued straight from a trailer for Suffragette, where she portrays Emmeline Pankhurst, to this little gem, where she plays Ricki Rendazzo, an ageing rocker, struggling to keep her dreams of stardom alive as she fronts a small time band (the eponymous Flash) by night and works by day at the checkout of an LA supermarket.

And you know what? Streep absolutely nails it.

The film starts as it means to go on, with Ricki’s band blasting out a credible version of Tom Petty’s American Girl and for once, in a movie, this sounds like genuine musicians playing genuine music – as well it should, because Streep recorded her own vocals for this and she’s fronting a real band, featuring Rick Springfield as the new man in her life, Greg.

When Ricki takes a call from her ex-husband, Pete (Kevin Kline), informing her that their daughter, Julie (Streep’s real life daughter, Mamie Gummer), has just been dumped by her husband and is feeling pretty low, Ricki heads back to Indianapolis, to try and mediate with Julie and to reconnect with her two sons, who have pretty much cut Ricki out of their lives since she broke up with their father. She also has to deal with Pete’s new wife, Maureen (Audra McDonald), a woman who seems to have been invented simply to illustrate the true meaning of perfection. Can Ricki have any hope of patching up all those wounds from the past? Or has she simply been away for far too long?

This is a gorgeous film, perfectly pitched to avoid stereotyping and mawkishness. It’s cleverly scripted by Diablo Cody – the scene where Ricki sits down for dinner with her estranged family (including her son’s fiancee) is a comic masterclass – and there’s a resolution here that, in the wrong hands, could have come across as hopelessly sentimental but, guided by seasoned professional Jonathan Demme, is an absolute triumph. Cody has some history here. Her mother in law apparently fronted a rock band for years and that experience has clearly paid dividends. That odd title isn’t doing the film any favours at all, but you really should check this out. It’s a heartwarming tale about love, relationships and the redemptive power of rock n’ roll,  well worth the price of admission.

4.6 stars

Philip Caveney