As you watch Out of the Blue, it’s easy to get lost in its missed potential. The problem is, once the cards are on the table and the credits roll, you realize that even though the erotic thriller had a clear path ahead of it, it simply decided to go nowhere.
Written and directed by Neil LaBute (In The Company of Men), Out of the Blue centers around two people who find each other at complicated moments in their lives: Marilyn (Diane Kruger) is trying to survive a terribly abusive relationship, and Connor (Ray Nicholson) is fresh out of prison for a crime he admits having committed. As these two are increasingly drawn to each other, they start to realize that in order to find happiness, they’ll have to take action and do something potentially dangerous. Even though we’ve had our fair share of “ordinary guy in a dire situation” stories over the years, this is a subgenre that never fails to deliver, because it’s pretty easy to relate to this type of character. If Out of the Blue was a simple romance, maybe it would have worked fine.
Not that deciding to take it to the next level is a problem—a twist in common tropes is always welcome. And, in the beginning, the movie feels like a clever take on thriller stories, especially in the way it sometimes pokes fun at it. Often, title cards will appear on the screen to provide viewers with a sense of timeline – something that was more common with film noirs and Golden Age Hollywood whodunits. So it brings a smile to the face to notice when the cards get weirdly specific or vague about the setting, to the point of saying “two or three weeks later,” and “on a sunny afternoon.”
The problem is, Out of the Blue never fully commits to the satire, and it doesn’t really go much further than playing with the title cards – unless you factor in Hank Azaria’s character’s obsession with dicks, but we’ll get to that. But Out of the Blue doesn’t let go of satire in order to focus on its own story: It just decides that we’ll spend most of its runtime watching Connor and Marilyn fall in love.
Getting to know characters is essential to caring about their future, but that often means we have to enjoy spending time with them. A huge portion of that depends on dialogue, and here Out of the Blue fails miserably. Throughout the movie, it’s hard to find a conversation that sounds natural. The characters communicate like someone who’s never had a conversation before. Take, for example, the scene in which Marilyn is in a restaurant and talks to Connor as he approaches her on a sidewalk. There are three other people in the scene, and yet the couple communicates so obviously in (poorly chosen) codes that you can’t help but wonder if no one is going to stop them and ask who the hell they think they are fooling, or if they think they’re being discreet.
Out of the Blue is also not very interested in creating any stakes for a crime that comes up later in the movie. First, the movie treats the victim of the crime as a one-dimensional character—or rather, with no dimensions—since they only show up in one scene and barely say anything. Somehow, LaBute’s script fails to understand that the victim of the crime is a pretty important character. It’s almost like the script wasn’t thought through—and curiously enough, the crime in the story isn’t thought through as well: The perpetrator spends a considerable time deciding to kill someone but doesn’t even do a Google search on his high-profile victim. Seems legit.
With nothing to offer dialogue-wise on the romantic side, and barely anything to excite on the thriller side, we’re only left with the option to have a little fun with the other characters, right? Enter Azaria, who, much like Kruger, does whatever he can to save the script, but with little success. Azaria plays a parole officer who abuses his power by flipping people’s food plates upside down and has a clear obsession with penises. Not in a laugh-out-loud Superbad kind of way, but rather as a guy who mentions it so often you start to wonder what’s his deal.
Not surprisingly, Out of the Blue wraps up its nonsensical storyline with a final development you can see coming a mile away, with characters making decisions that are so dumb, you end up feeling like they deserve whatever’s given to them. At one point, it all becomes so ridiculous that a character gets shot because of an absurdly unbelievable scenario, and you just go, “Eh.” And, of course, to add insult to injury, we get a final “twist” that’s not even worth getting into.
Out of the Blue is the kind of movie that keeps you guessing where it’s going to go, but frustrates when you realize it’s going nowhere. Its dialogue is constructed in a way that would sound unnatural even in a daytime soap opera, and Kruger works her best to save it, but there’s only so much she can do. The story is so poorly developed it feels like an outline of a script, all in favor of a final plot twist that would be jaw-dropping…in the 1930s.