Out of the Blue

Dir: Dennis Hopper, 1980. Starring: Dennis Hopper, Linda Manz, Sharon Farrell. Drama.
Out of the Blue

Dennis Hopper has always played the person who unsettled me the most in a movie. There was something about the naturalness behind his screwy, brutish characters that made me feel as though the role was more personal therapy than acting. But I must say that I've always been captivated by his roles, and I try to see as many as possible because they do have such a strange effect on me. That being said, I've yet to see Easy Rider, which he directed, nor was I even aware that he directed it and several others, including this film. Many of the details in Out of the Blue seemed familiar; the womanizing husband, as seen in several Cassavetes films; the youngsters from broken homes, like in The Outsiders; the robotic, forced, and sometimes unnatural dialogue in David Lynch films. This familiarity turned me off at first, and I must admit that the overall feel of the movie didn't grab me the way I thought it would. What ultimately kept me focused and quite pleased was Dennis Hopper and his young co-star Linda Manz.

In the movie we find Cebe (Linda Manz), a 15-year old girl who's searching for someone to look up to. Her father (Dennis Hopper) is at the tail end of a 5-year stretch in prison after accidentally driving his semi into a school bus full of children. Her mother (Sharon Farrell) is a heroin addict who tries to find security and a good time with different men. Cebe aspires to be a punk rocker and often recites phrases and philosophies made popular by Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten. She also enjoys listening to and dressing up like Elvis. Her attachment to their music is a catalyst for the film, and because they're dead and gone, she tries to find direction and excitement in local punk bands. Her aggression, and that of her small group of friends, is what often saves her from the perverts and lowlifes in her town.

When her father is released from prison Cebe and her mother try to go back to being a family, but the town hasn't forgotten that her father is the raging alcoholic who killed many of their kids in a spell of recklessness. Cebe was with him when it happened and she revisits the crash site often. She sits in the driver's seat dispatching other truckers, chanting punk mantras, and informing them that "disco sucks." Her visits to the abandoned truck hold great meaning in the film, and the moments where she's alone reliving the nightmare that started it all is very powerful—in fact it's not the crash that she's revisiting, but abuse that happened prior to it.

Back at home, the drugs and alcohol have turned her already no-good parents into dopey maniacs. Cebe gets into trouble with the law and finds a line of harsh lessons on the street. With each uncalled for outburst from her parents comes a new rebellion from Cebe. Her parents start to worry about her and try to make her act and appear more average and feminine, fearing that she'll become a lesbian if she sticks with her current lifestyle. When they take things too far she decides to expose a secret that's been haunting her for years and put an end to all the madness in her family.

As stated before, the film as a whole was not what I expected, but the performances by Hopper and Manz were the payoff. Hopper's character is pitiful, honest, and abusive, yet he seems to feel sorry for himself and his family. Manz's character is awkward and innocent, but she has a desperate personality and a stoney heart. She wants to love her parents and be happy, but they consistently disappoint her and she pays for their faults through her own self-abuse. Though this sort of family has been brought to the screen many times, there was a chemistry between Hopper and Manz that is quite different. Out of the Blue is one of those movies that I understand on a very personal level, and therefore a recommendation doesn't exactly feel merited, but rather necessary and required of me. I'm sure not everyone will have the same experience with it, but it's worth watching, even if you can't relate to backwards towns and dysfunctional families.

Posted by:
Edythe Smith
Jun 24, 2011 6:52pm
Steve Earle and the Dukes
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