Alex Lehmann’s Blue Jay smacks of Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy without ever feeling like a copycat. When you make a film that closely resembles something so adored it’s not an easy task to avoid making a carbon-copy of one’s inspiration. Lehmann, along with writer and star Mark Duplass, have accomplished that.
Blue Jay is a simple film, one without any bells and whistles, but it’s an effective one. Gorgeously – emphasis on that word – shot in black and white by Lehmann (who serves as the cinematographer, as well), the movie follows Jim (Duplass) and Amanda (Sarah Paulson) for a day. They run into each other in an aisle at the grocery store. It’s been a while since they have seen each other but there is an immediate connection that rises to the surface. They have a history but the film doesn’t exactly tell you what it is right away.
They go through the obligatory motions of catching-up – where they are in their professional and personals lives, are they married and so forth. As the film progresses, it becomes clear they were once in a relationships. High school sweethearts, specifically. They are clearly not together anymore but there is still a mutual affection for each other and their memories together.
Blue Jay could have easily been a trite game of remember when but Duplass and Paulson have such an effective chemistry together that we enjoy being with them for an 85-minute film. Duplass’ brief and wonderfully contained script allows these two fine actors to have a believable arc. Duplass continues to be a master of doing so much with so little.
Paulson, who has long been a reliable character actress, is coming off her Emmy-winning career-defining performance in FX’s The People v. OJ Simpson, has the trickier role of trying to live in the present, even when she is pulled into her past. She’s charming and effervescent, a nice follow-up to her perfect Marcia Clark interpretation. In an age when bigger is perceived as better, Blue Jay proves a small film can be the most affecting. Duplass and Lehmann end the film on the perfect note and the perfect shot, ambiguous and open for interpretation. The best films are ones that always prompt a discussion.
Verdict: 4 out of 5
Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson wield a lovely and believable chemistry of people who once loved each other and in their own ways still do. Shot in stunningly beautiful black and white, Blue Jay is simple pleasure.