This turned out to be yet another example of my least favorite genre of
all: separate stories of a seemingly unconnected multi-ethnic group of
people in Los Angeles whose lives become mysteriously interrelated in a
short period of time. The most noteworthy antecedents for this film
include Short Cuts, Crash, Babel, and Magnolia. Another recent STV,
Crossing Over, follows this same general format.
As I write this, Powder Blue has one of the strangest male/female
scoring ratios ever seen on IMDb. Men 18-29 rate it 9.4, a score which, if
it held up across all demographics, would make Powder Blue the top film of
all time. Women in the same age group rate it 4.9, which would be a weak
score for a straight-to-vid. Among all voters, the male-minus-female score
is 2.0. That score would theoretically make this one of the most
testosterone-filled "dick-flicks" films of all time. In the IMDb Top 250,
only two old war films 1
have a male-minus-female score higher than 0.7. After those two
rarely-seen films, the Wrestler and Magnolia are next at 0.7, Sin City
scores 0.6, and the two most popular Guy Richie films are each at .5.
Surprisingly, the most popular films which are filled with war scenes
and/or mindless violence do not have wildly unbalanced testosterone-heavy
scores, and that includes many films you would probably think of as
dick-flicks, including The Dirty Dozen, The Usual Suspects, and Full Metal
"So Powder Blue is a dick-flick, right?"
Not at all.
Consider the story lines. It's Christmas Eve. A stripper is looking for
her lost puppy while her young son lies in a coma in a nearby hospital.
Meanwhile, her long-lost father is trying to reestablish contact with her
because he's dying. A cleric is desperate to commit suicide because of a
careless act which caused the death of his beloved wife, who appears to
him in dreams. A tranny seems to be a hardened street person, but is
really just looking for love, and is in prostitution to earn enough money
to get his sex change operation. The two other main characters are a
painfully shy mortician and a lonely waitress trying to re-enter the
dating scene after a midlife divorce. The characters are all damaged and
forlorn, and many of them are doomed. At least three of those main
characters will die before the night is over, and the suicidal guy is not
Oh, and don't forget the melancholy and sparse musical score, the
ghost, and the miraculous frogs ... er ... I mean snowflakes ...
definitely not frogs ... which fall from the heavens in Southern
Does that sound like a dick-flick to you?
Clearly not, based on the "Earth Girls are Easy rule." One of the
aliens in "Earth Girls" observes that Earth men like movies in which many
people die quickly, while Earth women prefer films in which a few people
are dying slowly. Powder Blue is obviously in the latter group.
So what's going on with the IMDb scores? Well, a few things. One is
that very few females have rated the film, so there are not enough degrees
of freedom to establish a true statistical pattern with any confidence.
The other main reason for the gender gap is that Powder Blue is widely
known for only one reason: it is the film in which the spectacularly toned
and muscled body of Jessica Biel can be seen naked on screen for the first
Is it a good movie? Kinda. The bad news is that the story outlines read
much better than they actually are, and that gap can be blamed on some
stilted dialogue. I actually laughed during one supposedly dramatic and
potentially romantic encounter between Biel and the mortician, when one
line came perilously close to "Promise me you'll never die," Team
America's famous parody. I also cringed at some of the awkward monologue
delivered by the priest when he talks to God. But the film does have its
plusses. If I set aside my distaste for this overworked format, and the
fact that I did not personally enjoy the film, I have to concede that the
film has some strengths:
Unlike many such films, the multi-story format is appropriate for the
material and the interaction between the stories is sensible and
Unlike many weep-fests, this film allowed some of the main characters
to find hope and/or happiness.
The performances are quite solid from top to bottom. I'm not sure
about Eddie Redmayne, the Michael Cera impersonator who played the young
mortician. I just don't know if I disliked the character or his
interpretation of it, so maybe he just did what he was supposed to do.
The rest of the leads (Ray Liotta, Forrest Whittaker, and Jessica Biel)
certainly earned solid As and B plusses by overcoming the unnatural
dialogue. As a bonus, Biel's performance also includes some of the most
sensuous and athletic stripping you've ever seen. The solid minor
players include veterans like Kris Kristofferson, Patrick Swayze, Lisa
Kudrow and Sanaa Lathan, as well as a newcomer named Alejandro Romero
who played the tranny. Swayze had the oddest role in the film. He was
cast against type as the strip club owner, a complete sleazeball with
long blond hair. Given the strange role and his illness, you will not
know it is Swayze unless you are specifically looking for him. Maybe not