Forty Shades of Blue
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A Russian woman, living a trophy-wife existence in Memphis with a rock-n-roll legend experiences a personal awakening when her husband's handsome, estranged son comes to visit.
In Forty Shades of Blue, writer/director Ira Sachs takes three archetypes--temperamental artist, trophy wife, and brooding writer--and turns them into real people. Alan (Rip Torn, The Larry Sanders Show), producer of numerous R&B hits, is a Memphis legend in the Sam Phillips mold. On a trip to Russia a few years ago, he met the much younger Laura (Dina Korzun, Last Resort), who became his common-law wife. They had a child. It should be a good life, except fidelity is not part of Alan's vocabulary. Michael (Darren Burrows, Northern Exposure), adult son from one of his many previous marriages, is an English teacher and aspiring author. When Michael travels from LA for a rare visit, he quickly realizes it's easier to talk to Laura than to his own father--or even his own wife, who decides to join him later. The more Alan, who perceives himself as a man of action, ignores Laura and belittles the introspective Michael, however, the closer they become. But how much of their attraction is based on lust and how much is based on a mutual desire to get back at the larger-than-life hitmaker for his misdeeds? Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, Forty Shades of Blue may sound like soap opera, but in the patient, attentive hands of Sachs (The Delta), it never plays like it. Alan, Michael, and Laura are neither heroes nor villains; just three lonely people trapped in self-contained worlds of their own creation. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
- Commentary by director Ira Sachs
- Behind-the-scenes featurette
- Interview with co-writer Michael Rohatyn
- Alternate and deleted scenes
- Get It While You Can, a short film by Ira Sachs
- Theatrical trailer
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Top Customer Reviews
Rip Torn - who last year probably should have received an Oscar nomination - stars as Alan James, a boozed out, aging Memphis writer/musician and record producer who is having a party in his honor. Alan is a bit of a philanderer and a bit of an egotist. We first meet him just as he is abandoning his gorgeous Russian trophy girlfriend, Laura (Dina Korzun) so he can fool around with another woman in a hotel room.
Laura is well aware of Alan's wayward ways and his penchant for adultery, but as a Russian bride, she's also cognizant of the fact that Alan can give her a life she could only have dreamed of back in Russia. She puts up with his raging, his infidelities, and his temper tantrums because she loves him - she's also full of gratitude - and also because they share a three year old son.
For his part, Alan deeply loves Laura, but his passion is tempered by deep-seated insecurities - he can give her the material, but perhaps not the sexual or spiritual. This is made even more palpable when Alan's handsome English teacher son, Michael (Darren E. Burrows) visits from California.
Michael has problems of his own. Stuck in an unhappy marriage with a newly pregnant wife, he is immediately attracted to Laura; part out of loneliness and probably because he sees in her a similar kind of vulnerability. Michael also freely admits that Alan has been a rotten father, although of late relations have been cordial enough, but it clearly can't have been easy for Michael to have grown up as Alan's son.
As Michael and Laura navigate the treacherous forty shades of blue, both are faced with difficult choices, especially Laura who feels so utterly alone and isolated in her chic life. The performances are astounding - Rip Torn is truly spectacular as the earthy, drunken Alan who lives for the past and yet can't quite quit being self-obsessed and ego-driven.
Director Ira Sachs moves to the rhythms of his native Memphis, teasing poignant significance out of the quiet domesticity of life and really capturing the city's gritty and coarse allure. The movie is full of meaning and muffled yet suggestive moments. You can really feel Laura and Michael being pulled together, they're both well aware of their commitments to their spouses, but just seem to be desperate for each other.
When choices are made and the characters eventually movie on, viewers will be truly left wondering and the impact of the final pivotal scene is absolutely devastating. Laura is so alienated she spends most of her days shopping in upscale malls and boutiques. Self-examination comes hard to her, but when it does the impact is all the more dramatic for it. This movie is absolutely haunting in its spare, stripped-down depiction of lost souls bound together; it is indeed a true masterpiece. Mike Leonard July 06.
None of the characters are sympathetic nor attractive to the viewer.
Although the script does an effective job capturing the tensions simmering just beneath the surface of the story, the plot itself seems too conventional and too underdeveloped to engage the viewer completely. Still the characters are complex enough and the performances sufficiently layered to at least hold our interest throughout. Torn is particularly good at creating a character whose amiability and likeability on the surface mask a callousness and mean-spiritedness below.
This is a subtle, if not exactly gripping, study of the compromises we make - and the choices we come to regret - in our effort to avoid loneliness and to find meaning and happiness in life.
This is a well-acted and well-filmed movie about the dynamics between a father and son, and a man and women; a love triangle. However, despite the potential, the script is boring; it never quite congeals into something that has a cohesive plot. Given the low-quality of the material they had to work with everybody besides the screenwriter did well, but they could not overcome the boat anchor of a script they were given to work with.