"Powder Blue" was a movie often profiled on evening entertainment news shows like "Extra", who were all discussing the fact that the picture would be the first time that star Jessica Biel had a nude scene in a film. Months later, it was announced that the movie would be heading straight to DVD, as evidentially the Biel buzz (the actress recently complained that she is "too pretty" to get good roles - awwww, how terrible for her!) wasn't enough to push the character drama to a theatrical release.
The picture is a multi-character study that takes place in Los Angeles. Biel stars as Rose Johnny, an exotic dancer who's got a child in the hospital. Ray Liotta plays Jack, an ex-con who has recently been released. Forest Whitaker plays a suicidal man looking for someone to help him end it. There's also depressed mortician Qwerty (seriously, that's the character's name. No, I'm not kidding.) Doolittle (Eddie Redmayne.) I'll keep from giving the connections away, but the movie manages to create some loose and convenient ways to bring these somber figures together in the midst of a particularly gloomy (and really, the movie tries way too hard to look "gritty") Los Angeles.
While director Timothy Linh Bui's picture has more than a few issues, it's the performances that keep it from going off the rails completely. Biel doesn't deliver a particularly great performance (although she doesn't have to worry about her career too much - Anne Hathaway recovered from "Havoc"), but she certainly gives it her all. Liotta gives the most compelling performance as the ex-con who has a connection to Rose. Whitaker has been better in the past, and Patrick Swaze gets stuck in a thankless role as the manager of the club where Biel's character works.
Still, while this is understandably a dark (and depressing) drama about troubled people, the tiniest bit of humor would have been welcome - the only humor is an unintentionally funny scene in the strip club, with what is possibly the most artsy stripper routine ever. While the screenplay needs more than just a few rewrites, loosening up a bit would help quite a bit - aside from being (nearly) humorless, the picture is more than a little self-important and rather than finding the drama in the subtle details, it tries too hard to force Big Emotional Moments. At the end of the day, I had a difficult time caring about any of these characters, despite the movie straining to convince me to find interest in their various crises.
VIDEO: "Powder Blue" is presented by Image Entertainment in 2.40:1 (1080p/AVC). The picture's "gritty" visual style results in a presentation that results in image quality that understandably looks quite a ways from reference quality. Sharpness and detail are average at best in most scenes, but some moments in the film can appear more noticeably soft. Fairly heavy grain is seen throughout most of the movie and colors can look a bit murky/muddy in some scenes, as well.
SOUND: The DTS HD 5.1 presentation offers limited use of the surrounds for some minor ambience, but this is otherwise a front-heavy presentation. Audio quality was fine, with clear dialogue and a well-recorded score.
EXTRAS: Commentary by Director Timmothy Linh Bui and producer Tracee Stanley, a "making of" documentary, photo gallery and trailer.
Final Thoughts: While a few of the performances are noteworthy, "Powder Blue" is an unfocused, rather tedious melodrama that tries to be another "Magnolia", but can't come close. The Blu-Ray offers average audio/video quality, as well as a few minor extras. Those seeking to see the picture for Biel's scenes would be advised to rent.
The Film C-