ALMOST BLUE is a lethargic drama about jazz saxophonist Morris Poole (Michael Madsen), whose life, career, and musical ability have crumbled in the aftermath of his painter wife's death five years earlier.
The death was an accident--Lorraine (Noelle Lippman) fell from a window during a violent argument--but the severely depressed Morris blames himself, and she haunts both his dreams and his waking moments. Unable to play jazz and compelled to watch repeatedly a tape of his final performance before
the accident, he supports himself by writing inane TV-commercial jingles, much to the impatience of his concerned but helpless agent Charles (Garrett Morris), and his former partner, bass player Icarus (Ed Battle). Late one hot summer night Morris watches two drunken girls, Jasmine (Lynette
Walden) and Darcy (Gale Mayron), dancing in the street. Entranced by Jasmine, he plays some soulful blues for her. The jealous Darcy takes out a gun and starts shooting, causing Morris to drop his sax out the window and instigating a torturous affair between Morris and Jasmine, although the latter
is constantly frustrated by Morris' depression and his failure to commit to her.
Icarus finally talks Morris into playing a gig, which he does beautifully, much to Charles's relief, but it only depresses Morris further. Jasmine and Morris finally have it out, and in an inverted repetition of his wife's accident, Morris trips and plunges through the window. As he's hanging
from the window sill, suspended by his feet, he finally decides to rejoin the living and asks Jasmine to stay with him "no matter what," then allows Charles and Jasmine to pull him to safety.
Written and directed by first-timer Keoni Waxman, ALMOST BLUE displays flashes of a careful, often elegant visual style, especially in the flashbacks to Morris's wife and their life together. The movie's sole other plus is a nicely turned jazz score by Nelson G. Hinds; Madsen's sax solos are
performed by Rich Charallice and Ernie Watts. But this too self-conscious movie seems endless, belaboring the obvious. A totally extraneous subplot, involving Darcy--who turns up unaccountably pregnant and drug addicted--and a bar denizen named Terry (the ill-used Yaphet Kotto), is fragmentary to
the point of nonsense, and another, concerning Morris's beloved tape, which several of the characters scramble around for it as if it were the Grail, also makes little sense.
Star Michael Madsen, whose excellent turn in THELMA & LOUISE has failed to free him from direct-to-video dozers like this, seems left to his own devices. They are an unfortunate Method morass of mumbling, chain-smoking, face-twitching, and head-scratching. Many of his scenes seem improvised, and
all are interminable. The result is that he misses any trace of genuine tragedy and instead wallows unlikeably in maudlin self-pity. Lynette Walden (MOBSTERS) is mostly effective as Morris's oddly film-noirish, salvation-promising lover, but only Garrett Morris adds real life to the proceedings as
the jive-talking agent-philosopher; the parting shot is his: "No matter what you do, you always wind up where you started." Well, maybe. (Extensive nudity, sexual situations, profanity.)
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- Released: 1993
- Rating: R
- Review: ALMOST BLUE is a lethargic drama about jazz saxophonist Morris Poole (Michael Madsen), whose life, career, and musical ability have crumbled in the aftermath of his painter wife's death five years earlier. The death was an accident--Lorraine (Noelle Lip… (more)