Two Dramas from First Look Studios
Forty Shades of Blue (July 23/06)
Though well acted and confidently directed, Forty Shades of Blues remains dramatically inert and oppressively dull throughout its egregiously overlong running time - something that can be attributed primarily to the uniformly drab characters that populate the proceedings. The threadbare plot - which essentially boils down to a love triangle between aging record producer Alan James (Rip Torn), his trophy wife Laura (Dina Korzun), and married son Michael (Darren Burrows) - is exacerbated by the unreasonably deliberate pace, as filmmaker Ira Sachs essentially takes a story that could've been told in about 20 minutes and pads it out to feature length. And although Sachs' free-wheeling, distinctly Altmanesque sense of style is initially intriguing, it - like everything else in the movie - eventually wears out its welcome. This is despite an admittedly jaw-dropping performance from Torn, who effectively drops all the ticks and mannerisms he's become known for and transforms Alan into a layered, thoroughly complex figure. Korzun doesn't fare quite as well, as the actress generally comes off as flat and impassive - though her performance takes on a whole new depth in retrospect (ie by the time the end rolls around, we're acutely aware of why she's behaved the way she has). But really, Sachs' inability to provoke any kind of an emotional response within the viewer ultimately sinks the film and ensures its place as a sporadically well-acted curiosity.
Touched (July 29/06)
Painfully earnest and thoroughly manipulative, Touched strikes all the wrong notes virtually from the get-go - transforming what could've been a pleasant little drama into something that's ultimately unwatchable. The story opens with a car crash that sends Scott Davis (Randall Batinkoff) into a coma and his young son to the morgue. Two years later, Scott awakens to the realization that not only has his boy been killed, his sense of touch seems to have disappeared. Along with a helpful nurse named Angela (Jenna Elfman), Scott embarks on the slow road to recovery and eventually finds himself falling for his caretaker. Written and directed by Timothy Scott Bogart, Touched has clearly been designed to elicit a pronounced emotional response within the viewer - though Bogart's apparent aversion to subtlety quickly lends the proceedings a distinctly interminable feel. And although the movie has been populated with a whole host of familiar faces - including Bruce Davison, Samantha Mathis, and Diane Venora - there's just no overlooking the low-rent, amateurish vibe (a problem that's compounded by Chris Seefried's grating score and Irv Goodnoff's bland cinematography). Add to that a thoroughly ridiculous conclusion and Elfman's penchant for histrionics, and you've got a recipe for an unusually incompetent piece of work.