BLUE STATE (2008)
Starring Breckin Meyer, Anna Paquin, Adriana O’Neill, Joyce Krenz, Richard Blackburn, Seun Olangunju, Nicolas Oullette, Grace Lynn Kung, Cory Cassidy, Leigh Enns, Liz Sroka and George W. Bush.
Screenplay by Marshall Lewy.
Directed by Marshall Lewy.
Distributed by 20th Century Fox. 90 minutes. Rated PG-13.
If you have a 1.20.09 bumper sticker (or even if you know what they mean), then you have a kindred spirit in John Logue, the lead character in this breezy and mostly quite charming love story.
Blue State may be the first anti-Bush-romantic-comedy-road-trip movie, but don’t let that description scare you off.
Though Blue State‘s main character wears his political beliefs on his sleeve to an almost annoying extent (and this is coming from someone who strongly agrees with most of them) this is not a movie that wallows in liberal angst. True, if you are a conservative (or, for that matter, a Canadian) you may not totally like the way your people are portrayed, however the main character takes quite a few shots for his political convictions as well.
In fact, in one day — November 3, 2004 — Logue’s entire life comes crashing down. Logue is an idealistic graphic designer and aspiring political blogger who has taken time off his job to work for the 2004 John Kerry campaign and ends up running the San Francisco bay area office. The night of the election he makes a drunken promise to his co-workers — which gets shown on local TV. If Bush goes back to the White House, Logue is going to move to Canada.
It’s not as far-fetched as it seems. At the time of the 2004 election, quite a few frustrated progressives did make the jump over the border, looking at it as a political statement along the lines of the draft dodgers in Vietnam. Some people might argue that the last three years of history may make the deserters seem rather sane.
Still, Logue had no real intention to move to the great white north. However, he is wracked by disgust and outrage when Bush was returned to office. (No, I will not ever say he was elected.) Meanwhile friends are congratulating him for sticking with his political convictions with the move. Then he finds that the job that he took a sabbatical from to follow his political conscience was no longer available. Not only that, his girlfriend, who he thought he was just taking a break with, ends up being newly-engaged. Suddenly, he doesn’t have all that much reason not to go up to Canada.
Breckin Meyer — an actor who did not seem to have this subtle a characterization in him, after his roles in broad (to be kind) comedies like Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties, Inside Schwartz, Caffeine and Road Trip — is nearly perfect in this role. John Logue is a smart and committed man — but also sometimes pedantic and self-absorbed. Meyer is able to juggle these conflicting traits deftly, making John alternately attractive and annoying — but always human and likable.
Through a flier he puts up, John meets Chloe (Anna Paquin). She is a pretty young punkish-looking girl (blue streaks in her hair and a nose ring) who also wants to go to Canada. They agree to share the ride. Chloe claims to also be a disenfranchised Democrat, however as they get to know each other better he realizes that this is not the exact truth. Eventually, it turns out that both of them have a much closer connection to the war in Iraq than either had let on.
Also, they get on each others’ nerves way too much — you just know they are falling in love.
Despite the fact that Paquin (who also co-produced the film) won an Oscar as a child for her first film, The Piano, I have found that she has become a much more natural and amiable performer as she has gotten older. She has a true chemistry with Meyer. When the two of them are on screen together, Blue State is intriguing and entertaining.
In fact, through the first half, Blue State is spinning on terrifically. It is a truly charming, sweet, thought-provoking film, until it hits upon a stretch where all the supporting characters become cartoonish and off-putting.
First, right before they are ready to cross the border, they stop in to visit John’s conservative parents, who live in Washington state. Writer/directer Lewy sort of botches the characterization of the father (Richard Blackburn). The gaffe is not that dad turns out to be a dittohead conservative — that part actually makes perfect dramatic sense. Dad spouts off the Rush Limbaugh/Sean Hannity/Fox News Channel company line with an appropriate sense of brainwashed zeal, refusing to consider or even hear any dissenting viewpoints. However, the movie takes it too far when the dad suddenly acts like his whole life is a radio show, snapping petulantly for someone to turn off a non-existent microphone on his son when he questions the war in Iraq. Suddenly dad takes the leap from annoyingly strident to borderline insane — which frankly dilutes the whole point that the filmmaker is trying to make.
However, if the conservatives come out looking stupid (What was it that Forrest Gump used to say? Stupid is as stupid does…) the Canadians come off as bewilderingly eccentric. In the world of this film, Canucks are all dull, US-hating, hippyish, sex-mad goofballs who consider curling a good time.
However, in the end the film is able to regain its footing, with the pair meeting a Vietnam refugee who helps them put their lives into perspective. It climaxes on a very positive note, finally allowing John to figure a way to make his political idealism have practical worth.
Like the characters it portrays, Blue State starts off with great promise, sort of loses its way in the middle, but comes out the other side all the stronger for it.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: January 25, 2008.