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February 13, 2008

DVD Review: Romance Gets Political in “Blue State”

2.5 out of 4 Stars


By Stephen Silver

Remember all the people in 2004 who threatened to up and leave the United States and flee to Canada if George W. Bush had won re-election? The new, direct-to-DVD comedy/drama “Blue State” is a movie about one guy who actually did.


The film has its flaws, and it’s easy to see why its potential appeal was limited. But “Blue State” represents a fascinating, very realistic portrayal of liberal activists in conservative times. The film, which showed at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, was released yesterday on DVD.


Written and directed by Marshall Lewy, the movie has several things going for it – a fascinating, very original story; two very likable leads who really deserve more roles than they get; and an ending that’s both satisfying and true to the characters and story. The script, however, takes a couple of wrong turns, and is way too dependent on surprise plot twists.


If you’re a young liberal, or even if you’re not, chances are you know people like the movie’s protagonist, John Logue (Breckin Meyer). A liberal activist and blogger who is introduced campaigning for the Kerry-Edwards ticket among uninterested parties in Ohio, John makes a drunken promise that he’ll leave the country if Bush wins the election.


Under pressure from friends to follow through, and after his boss tells him he’s not welcome back at his graphic design firm, John sets off for Canada. After posting an ad for someone to share a ride, meets Chloe (Anna Paquin), a young woman who says she’s in the same predicament he is, but turns out to not be everything she seems.


Where the film really steps wrongly is when it finally reaches Canada. Working off of a Web gimmick from the 2004 campaign, the movie introduces a site, called MarryaCanadian.ca, which is sort of a cross between Match.com and the Branch Davidians. Nothing in this section of the movie works, or is as believable as the earlier parts.


Another scene, in which we meet John’s parents and his right-wing dad channels Rush Limbaugh (all the way down to saying “next caller”), seems bizarre and inexplicable, until one piece of information revealed a half-hour later explains it.


Also, at times the movie suffers from “Lions For Lambs” syndrome – whole scenes of dialogue sound exactly like people debating on CNN. But unlike that regrettable Robert Redford film, “Blue State” does not reach the conclusion that empty activism is a good in and of itself.


Much more poignant is a scene in which John and Chloe meet a ‘60s activist, now living in Canada, whose advice for them is unexpected. This leads into the film’s conclusion, which is especially satisfying.


The lead performances are both quite good. Meyer, best known for the comedy “Road Trip” and the short-lived sitcom “Inside Schwartz,” has all but disappeared from screens in recent years. He’s talented enough and deserves better. Paquin, who won an Oscar for “The Piano” as a child but has only showed up in films occasionally of late, actually produced “Blue State,” and has excellent chemistry with her co-star.


“Blue State” may not be a masterwork of cinema, but it still faithfully captures a specific moment in American political history, as well as any of the “prestige” political films of 2007.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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