Somewhere in a Maine logging town, a caring bus driver for the local elementary school, Lesley (Amy Morton), has her life turned upside down when, after one of her daily routes, she accidentally leaves a child on board through the night, sending him into a hypothermic coma. The boy’s young mother, Marla (Louisa Krause), forgot to pick him up that day at his usual stop, while his grandmother, Crystal (Margo Martindale), is seriously questioning her daughter’s aptitude for parenthood. Meanwhile, Lesley’s husband Richard (John Slattery), a logger himself, further absorbs himself in his work, leaving Lesley and their teenaged daughter Paula (Emily Meade) to suffer their own demons, Lesley’s guilt and Paula’s blossoming and potentially unhealthy relationship with a boy from school.
Shot with a somber 35mm aesthetic, Bluebird sets its sights on exploring the psychology behind the small town tragedies that have defined films like Little Accidents, The Sweet Hereafter, and God’s Pocket. However, all comparisons aside, Lance Edmands’ debut film isn’t always substantial enough to justify its existence. It tackles ideas that have been explored in other films, only with lower stakes and an even less-developed ensemble of characters and situations that ultimately lead to – of course – an ambiguous ending that does nothing but feign artistic ambition and corroborate this notion that low budget indies are quickly becoming a forum for visually appealing but ultimately spineless movies without substance.
The central performance by Amy Morton is very good, there’s no question about that, but she’s surrounded by actors who insist on doing actorly things, including some bizarre work by John Slattery, who manages to give too much of a performance while not giving a performance at all, a criticism that could apply directly to his effort as an auteur on God’s Pocket, which felt both hopelessly bleak and stylistically appealing but ultimately vapid of any content. Otherwise, Bluebird’s various plot strands are too singular to cohere into anything more than a series of vignettes that end up not really having much bearing on the outcome of the film, which approaches as quickly as it ends, in a badly written attempt to tie everything together in the final fifteen minutes.
The 35mm cinematography by Jody Lee Lipes, a regular DP on HBO’s Girls as well as Judd Apatow’s upcoming Trainwreck, is good, but not good enough to excuse the reliance on aesthetics that films like Medeas can get away with just for being so damn beautiful. In contrast, Bluebird isn’t too bad on the eyes, but it doesn’t have that transcendent quality that it so desperately needed to infuse the narrative with something more than grim stoicism. Without it, Bluebird is another unsatisfying drama that leaves its viewers with more questions than answers, and they aren’t exactly the questions that writer-director Lance Edmands intended to leave us with. In fact, I think the worst thing a film can do is leave its audience with the question, “so what?”Continue Reading Issue #39
February 27, 2015
1 hr. 31 min.
Amy Morton, John Slattery, Louisa Krause, Emily Meade, Margo Martindale, Adam Driver