Powder Blue Timothy Linh Bui

Powder Blue Timothy Linh Bui
In a ho-hum making-of documentary, Powder Blue star/co-producer calls the film "a poem to loneliness." I suppose that's true; it reminds me of one of those heavy-handed suicide poems sometimes written by self-consciously depressed kids in seventh grade. A self-consciously grim "everybody hurts" drama about lost souls in Los Angeles, Powder Blue tries to make a weighty statement on isolation in a bit city but instead feels like a movie trying too hard to make a weighty statement. Writer/director Timothy Linh Bui takes a page out of the Amores Perros and (groan) Crash playbook with his interconnected plot structure. Rose Johnny (Jessica Biel) is a coke addict who strips to pay for her comatose son's medical bills. Jack Doheny (Ray Liotta) is the ex-con who takes a mysterious interest in her. Qwerty (Eddie Redmayne) finds her lost dog and enters her life. Meanwhile, Charlie (Forest Whitaker) is heartbroken, suicidal, and has a big bag full of money. Interspersed among the four main characters' lives are Patrick Swayze (as a sleazy strip club owner), Kris Kristofferson, and, in a particularly nice piece of acting, Lisa Kudrow. Bui has a good visual sense and his depictions of the seedier sides of Los Angeles are detailed and evocative. The actors are all very competent and the film moves along briskly enough that it never really bores, but it's a shame that Powder Blue is so much less than the sum of its parts. Sophomore feature director Bui has yet to learn that less is more when it comes to depicting the harsh emptiness of loneliness. He crowds the screen with characters, aggressively emotional music, unconvincing angry monologues, and visual razzmatazz that the "lonely" atmosphere seems insincere and unconvincing. To see the topic done with more subtlety and finesse, check out Kelly Reichardt's Wendy and Lucy, or heck, even Babel, which, while chaotic, still managed to give its characters room to breathe. DVD extras include a self-congratulatory commentary and documentary. (Image Entertainment)