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Out of Blue

Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Out of Blue Movie Poster Image
Talented actors give slow-burning murder mystery gravitas.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 109 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Don't give up. Follow your instincts -- use courage, perseverance to get to the bottom of things.

Positive Role Models & Representations

An intrepid investigator is the main character; she shows courage, perseverance in digging into tricky case. Characters are complicated, often duplicitous; women and people of color have strong and central roles.

Violence

A violent death is at center of story; viewers see back of the head of a dead body, pools of blood around her. Aspects of murder case are discussed frankly: injuries, presence of semen. Viewers repeatedly see crime scene photos with blood. A man pushes a woman down during argument. A suicide is referred to in graphic terms: "She blew her perfect face off." Flashbacks suggest another murder. Arguing/threats.

Sex

A man says a woman wanted to "make love under the stars." Dancers at a club gyrate on a stage wearing bathing suits, brief dresses; a character who gets drunk also dances in her bra with jacket over it, briefly kisses a dancer. 

Language

Language includes "hell," "goddamn," "damn," and "f--k."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Hoolihan and another character are recovered addicts who meet in an AA meeting, yet later we see one of them downing a shot and dancing wildly on a strip club stage. A character holds (but doesn't smoke) a cigarette in a few scenes. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Out of Blue is a book-based mystery about a murdered astrophysicist (Mamie Gummer) and the investigator (Patricia Clarkson) who tries to find out what happened to her. The violent death at the center of the story is both shown (the back of the body's head is seen, with pools of blood around it; there are crime scene photos of blood) and described (graphic talk). Expect references to and discussion of murder and suicide. A man pushes a woman violently during an argument. Dancers at a strip club gyrate in skimpy outfits, and a character (previously depicted as a recovered addict) downs a shot of liquor and dances onstage in her bra (covered by a jacket) before briefly kissing another dancer. A character holds but doesn't smoke a cigarette in a few scenes. Language is infrequent but includes "hell," "goddamn," "damn," and "f--k." A strong female character anchors the action with courage and perseverance; people of color also have central roles. 

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What's the story?

OUT OF BLUE stars Patricia Clarkson as Mike Hoolihan, an unconventional yet brilliant detective who meets her match when astrophysics professor Jennifer Rockwell (Mamie Gummer) is found dead in the observatory where she works. Putting together the puzzle pieces leads Hoolihan in strange directions and toward strange people, since Rockwell's wealthy mover-and-shaker dad, Colonel Tom Rockwell (James Caan); her unstable mother, Miriam (Jacki Weaver); and her duplicitous boss (Toby Jones) are all suspects, among many others. But as Hoolihan uncovers more of Jennifer's secrets, the detective begins to wonder whether her death was caused by darkness in the human heart -- or in the stars. 

Is it any good?

Mystical and atmospheric, this film casts a spell, but ultimately it's too long and too slow-burning to really enchant. Carol Morley's murder mystery -- which was based on the novel by Martin Amis -- clearly wants viewers to draw parallels between Jennifer Rockwell's snuffed-out life and the dying stars she studied. The film stops dead in its tracks several times to allow the scientist to intone portentous statements like "There is much we can't see, detect, or comprehend, yet we spend our lives trying to get to the heart of this dark energy, this dark matter." All righty, then. What really lends this film the gravitas it has are the talented actors in the cast, not the labored connection between consciousness and cosmology that never quite gels. 

Instead, what we have here is a procedural, albeit a very languid one. Clarkson, always a delight to watch, ratchets up her emotional involvement as she makes the rounds of Rockwell's loved ones over and over, poking into the dead woman's life even as her own buttoned-down existence starts to fray at the edges. The plotline has the same beats as a Law & Order episode -- but with sterling talent in front of the camera and big ideas at work (even if they're half-baked), this drama is more special, if somewhat frustrating for the impatient and/or the thrill-seeking. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why dramas about murder and crime are so popular. What movies can you think of that are similar to Out of Blue? Why is the idea of people with secrets such a compelling one for viewers? 

  • Many of the scenes in this movie are literally dark: The light is so low that it's hard to make out what's happening. Why do you think filmmakers would make their visuals too dark to clearly see? What message is being communicated?

  • How do the characters in Out of Blue demonstrate perseverance and courage? Why are these important character strengths?

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