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.
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
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
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.