Blue Night? Terrible Night of Any Color, or just plain Terrible Movie
I have an ailing and excruciatingly painful knee, so yesterday I skipped my planned schedule of Tribeca Film Festival press screenings, but I forced myself to schlep out to see the “can’t-miss” screening of Blue Night, directed by Fabien Constant, starring Sarah Jessica Parker, and featuring Common, Jacqueline Bisset, and Renee Zellweger. It is literally the only movie I have walked out of since watching going-on-80 Tribeca2018 films. And I have a slew of excellent films to write about, which merit my coverage, and which I should be writing about right now, but sometimes it is easier to write about the bad movies than the good ones. This is a bad one. Save your money. Actually, forget the money; save your time. I am writing about Blue Night now because I am so annoyed that it wasted my precious time (and further enflamed my painful knee) during this festival full of truly extraordinary films. Sheesh. I feel scammed, and I didn’t even pay.
Most gratuitous shot in this gratuitous movie: the close-up of the shopping bag as Vivienne sits in the back seat of the car – major foreshadowing!
This movie helps to prove my cynical rule of thumb about film festivals: Skip the movies with the big names attached. They are there either because they paid to be part of the prestigious festival, as advertising, or because festival management chose them for their crowd-drawing potential. For the festival, they are there to pay for all the small movies that won’t make money or draw crowds. The small movies are there because they earned their way through the intensely competitive juried film-selection process. If you’ve made a film about an unappealing subject (war refugees, or ivory poaching, or human trafficking and prostitution), and you haven’t even managed to cast James Franco in it, you must be an extremely talented filmmaker to get into this Festival. So, movie watchers out there: Go see the movies you think you don’t want to see; that is where you will find the surprise greats.
But for the record, I feel the need to state that this year, O.G., starring Jeffery Wright, absolutely broke that rule; as my Tribeca Curtain-Raiser article declared, O.G. is actually Best of Fest – an impressive work of filmmaking and storytelling and top-notch acting. Never say never; sometimes the big films are worth watching. Although, still, you will get a chance to see that when it gets a national release into movie theaters (which it certainly will), so better to spend your time at Tribeca seeing the small films that may disappear after the Festival.
But back to Blue Night: It’s hard to choose which was worse – the acting or the script or the directing. Sarah Jessica Parker, as Vivienne the lounge singer with a life in which no one truly cares about her, tries way too hard to show us without telling us how distraught she is over her very-bad-news medical diagnosis. I kept thinking, “Please give her a line to say, so she stops desperately gesticulating in order to make us believe she believes she really might die.” And she is told that she might lose her singing voice due to the surgery, which would be horrible because her music is her life (cliché intended). Again, it would have been preferable to just be told this information, but instead we are forced to listen to her sing an entire Rufus Wainwright song, after which the audience might feel as if they are going to die before Vivienne does. (Question for Vivienne’s doctor: Might the surgery change her voice for the better? That could be the upside for the entire problem. Just a thought.)
Maybe director Fabien Constant thought that casting Jacqueline Bisset in his movie, and having her speak French, would be enough to make it an “art film,” rather than the tiresome melodrama that it is. Sarah Jessica Parker was pleasant enough to watch in the Sex and the City series, when she was wearing amusing outfits and beautiful shoes, and narrating the story with well-written essays that her character supposedly would publish in her weekly newspaper column. Those essays were the main reason I sometimes watched the show; they were often clever and usually well worded at least. This movie, however, has nothing well-worded, or well-acted. Okay, I will say “nearly nothing,” giving it the benefit of the doubt that something brilliant happened in the last half hour that I missed.
Common is in it, playing himself named someone else. Common also makes an appearance in another Tribeca2018 film, All About Nina, in which he also plays himself not playing himself, but in that case he seems more successful in his endeavor, maybe just because he is surrounded by a much better movie. And then there is Renee Zellweger. Oy. This is what has become of Renee Zellweger?! She is playing second fiddle to SJP? As our President likes to say – Sad. Not that I ever thought of her as an A-list actress, but still, seeing her play one of Carrie Bradshaw’s girlfriends – and throw herself into the role as if this were her last chance to prove she can act – was perhaps more upsetting than Vivienne’s medical situation.
And hey, I also live a selfish, lonely New York existence and have no one to list as my emergency contact on my medical forms, but still I felt no sympathy for this character. (And I don’t even get to travel the world with my band and fuck my drummer.) And she also must endure an overbearing mother? Quelle horreur!
Then, Vivienne leaves her new dress in a Lyft car. Most gratuitous shot in this gratuitous movie: the close-up of the shopping bag as Vivienne sits in the back seat of the car – major foreshadowing! I also have left an article of clothing in an Uber car (a mere glove, not a zillion dollar dress), but when the driver was kind enough to drive back and return it to me, I tipped him (even when he said it wasn’t necessary), as any decent person and real NewYorker would do. And don’t tell me that Vivienne is excused for this oversight because she has just learned that she may have a fatal medical condition; if she is calm enough to go dress shopping, she is calm enough to tip her driver.
I highly suspect that this Lyft driver is going to re-enter the story, as way too much screen time was given to him otherwise, but that would only make matters worse, and more hackneyed. Vivienne has no one but a rude Lyft driver will whom to share her anguish? Poor poor Vivienne. Are they going to help each other discover the true meaning of life? Save it for Hallmark. Time to go home and ice my knee.
p.s. I wrote an article titled Top Ten TFF2018 Mother-Daughter Movies, and in it I expressed amazement at how each film managed to depict a distinct and thoughtful and non-obvious portrayal of that archetypal relationship. Blue Night breaks that winning streak. This mother-daughter duo is the ultimate cliché.