×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Blue Sky

Two fine actors give among the best performances of their careers in "Blue Sky," a long-on-the-shelf Orion picture that deserves a good shot at theatrical life before being put out to video pasture. This 1991 production was the last film directed by Tony Richardson, and it happens to be one of the more credible efforts of the latter part of his career.

With:
Carly Marshall -Jessica Lange Hank Marshall - Tommy Lee Jones Vince Johnson - Powers Boothe Vera Johnson - Carrie Snodgress Alex Marshall - Amy Locane Glenn Johnson - Chris O'Donnell Ray Stevens - Mitchell Ryan Colonel Mike Anwalt - Dale Dye Ned Owens - Tim Scott Lydia - Annie Ross Becky Marshall - Anna Klemp

Two fine actors give among the best performances of their careers in “Blue Sky,” a long-on-the-shelf Orion picture that deserves a good shot at theatrical life before being put out to video pasture. This 1991 production was the last film directed by Tony Richardson, and it happens to be one of the more credible efforts of the latter part of his career. The old-fashioned but lively character study of a long-married military couple having midlife trouble will go nowhere without distrib support and some fine reviews, but a lucky break would give it a chance at sleeper status.

Jessica Lange makes the most of an opportunity at a full-blown star turn as Carly Marshall, the wife of Army scientist Hank Marshall (Tommy Lee Jones), whose irrepressible sensuality and wild spirit can’t be reined in even by the military. It’s the early 1960s, and at the outset, she friskily teases and tempts the local officers in Hawaii with her Brigitte Bardot get-up, only to shortly move into a Marilyn Monroe phase.

In fact, Bardot and Monroe are about the only other actresses one can imagine pulling off such a role as well as Lange has. Bardot, in fact, did it in “And God Created Woman,” laying to waste every man on the horizon, and Monroe could easily have been the object of the comment made by another military wife about Carly: “Women like you are the reason men like women in the first place.”

When Hank, Carly and their two girls are transferred to a base in Alabama, the “litter box” they are forced to live in sends Carly into a deep funk. It becomes clear that the even-keeled Hank is the only person who understands Carly and can calm her down, but her violent mood swings are nevertheless alarming, especially to older daughter Alex (Amy Locane), who has just entered troublesome teendom.

While Hank is forced to cope with the Army’s gung-ho nuclear-test fanatics, Carly tries to integrate herself into femme life on the base, but she’s a blond bombshell at a tea party and bound to cause trouble.

Sure enough, when Hank bows out of twirling her around at a big social, Carly gets carried away on the dance floor with the camp’s commanding officer, Vince Johnson (Powers Boothe), and the seeds are surely planted for future trouble.

Taking care of a life force such as Carly is clearly a full-time job, so when Hank is sent to Nevada for two weeks to observe an underground nuclear test, the door is opened for Vince to prey upon Carly’s obvious weakness. Unfortunately, their latenight tryst is witnessed by Alex and her new beau, Vince’s son Glenn (Chris O’Donnell), and all hell breaks loose on the base.

Rama Laurie Stagner’s semi-autobiographical original story, which she cooked into a lively screenplay with help from Arlene Sarner and Jerry Leichtling, pushes into rather more dubious and murky territory from this point on.

When Hank tries to reveal the fact that two civilians were exposed to radiation during the test explosion, the Army comes down hard, committing him to a hospital for “observation” and threatening him with court-martial. Carly then takes matters into her own hands, suddenly becoming a crusader for full disclosure of military secrets and coverups and fighting to save her husband from career oblivion or worse. Melodramatic contrivances of the last act are somewhat hard to swallow, but the lead characters have generated such good will up to this point that the tendency is to grant them the benefit of the doubt and wish them the best.

Richardson, who died in 1991 shortly after completing the picture, mounted the action in a visually straightforward, unflashy manner, concentrating his attention where it counted, on the performances.

Result is much like a solid melodrama from the 1950s, and gratifyingly so — a sharply focused piece in which a small number of characters define themselves in terms of their interaction within physical and social limits. Pic feels like a throwback, but in a refreshing way.

While Lange has the showy role, with almost unlimited opportunities to emote and strut her stuff, which she does magnificently and with total abandon, Jones must let his characterization take shape more gradually. But his Hank ultimately emerges as fully three-dimensional as does his wife, with the actor demonstrating terrific control and nuance on a tight rein.

Boothe and Carrie Snodgress are very good as the base’s first couple, while Locane and O’Donnell, both of whom have matured significantly since the pic was made, fill the bill nicely as the sparking adolescents.

Production values are modest but serviceable.

Blue Sky

(Romantic drama -- Color)

Production: An Orion release of a Robert H. Solo production. Produced by Solo. Co-producer, Lynn Arost. Directed by Tony Richardson. Screenplay, Rama Laurie Stagner, Arlene Sarner, Jerry Leichtling, story by Stagner.

Crew: Camera (CFI color; Deluxe prints), Steve Yaconelli; editor, Robert K. Lambert; music, Jack Nitzsche; production design, Timian Alsaker; art direction, Gary John Constable; set decoration, Leslie Rollins; costume design, Jane Robinson; sound (Dolby), Jacob Goldstein, Susumu Tokunow; supervising producer, John G. Wilson; associate producer, Stagner; assistant director, Thomas J. Mack; second unit director, Lambert; casting, Lynn Stalmaster. Reviewed at Orion screening room, L.A., Aug. 24, 1994. (Toronto Film Festival.) MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 101 min.

With: Carly Marshall -Jessica Lange Hank Marshall - Tommy Lee Jones Vince Johnson - Powers Boothe Vera Johnson - Carrie Snodgress Alex Marshall - Amy Locane Glenn Johnson - Chris O'Donnell Ray Stevens - Mitchell Ryan Colonel Mike Anwalt - Dale Dye Ned Owens - Tim Scott Lydia - Annie Ross Becky Marshall - Anna Klemp

More Film

  • Glass Movie

    Box Office: 'Glass' Shines Overseas With $48.5 Million Weekend

    After autobots and aquatic kings have dominated foreign markets over the past few weeks, a different kind of hero has risen to the top of box office charts. M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” is the new champ overseas, pulling in $48.5 million from international territories. The supernatural thriller, a sequel to 2000’s “Unbreakable” and 2016’s “Split,” debuted [...]

  • Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf

    'Roma' and 'The Favourite' Lead London Critics' Circle Winners

    After ruling the U.S. critics’ award circuit, “Roma” continued its dominance on the other side of the pond, as the London Film Critics’ Circle announced its winners tonight. A week after landing seven BAFTA nominations, Alfonso Cuarón’s Mexico City memory piece landed film of the year and director of the year honors from the group [...]

  • M. Night Shyamalan Should Stop Writing

    The Big Twist M. Night Shyamalan Needs: He Should Stop Writing His Own Scripts (Column)

    Quick, name the greatest film by each of the following directors: Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, David Lean, Robert Altman, Roman Polanski, Kathryn Bigelow, Jonathan Demme. Answers will vary (mine would be: “Psycho,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Nashville,” “Chinatown,” “The Hurt Locker,” “The Silence of the Lambs”), but whatever your taste, odds are that [...]

  • Andy Vajna Dead: 'Rambo' Producer and

    Andy Vajna, 'Rambo' Producer, Dies at 74

    Andy Vajna, executive producer of several “Rambo” films as well as “Total Recall” and several “Terminator” movies, died Sunday in Budapest after a long illness. He was 74. The Hungarian National Film Fund confirmed his death, calling him a “dominant figure in the Hungarian and international film industry” who was responsible for the development of [...]

  • Glass trailer

    Box Office: 'Glass' Dominates MLK Weekend With $47 Million

    M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” topped box office charts during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, collecting $40 million over the weekend for a four-day sum of $47 million. If estimates hold, “Glass” will come in behind “American Sniper” ($107 million) and “Ride Along” ($48 million) as the third-best showing for both January and MLK holiday [...]

  • FICG Names Estrella Araiza As New

    Estrella Araiza To Head Up Guadalajara Intl Film Festival

    The Guadalajara Intl. Film Festival (FICG) has announced that Estrella Araiza, until now the festival’s head of industry and markets and director of the Guadalajara IntL. Film Festival in Los Angeles, has been promoted to the position of general director of the prominent Mexican festival. She replaces Ivan Trujillo, appointed director of TV UNAM. Araiza [...]

  • 'St. Bernard Syndicate' Review: A Quietly

    Film Review: 'St. Bernard Syndicate'

    John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan may have received major award nominations this season for their fine work in “Stan & Ollie,” but there’s arguably a superior Laurel & Hardy tribute act to be found in the droll Danish comedy “St. Bernard Syndicate.” As a pair of bumbling losers who turn an already dubious business [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content