Best known by Irish audiences for his roles as bucolic TV producer Artie on 'The Larry Sanders Show' and foul-mouthed coach Patches O'Houlihan in 'Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story', veteran actor Rip Torn's career stretches back to the late 1950s and includes the acclaimed ('The Insider', The Cincinnati Kid') alongside the throwaway 'Beastmaster', 'Scooby Doo Goes Hollywood'). '40 Shades of Blue', however, has been described as a film that harks back to the strong lead roles Torn played in the 1970s. And, while his character is a little too reminiscent of Artie in places, the performances in this film are excellent.
Alan James (Torn) is a music legend in Memphis, responsible for producing a string of hit soul records in the 1960s and 1970s. The city has changed much, but James remains the same garrulous, larger-than-life character -despite the presence of much younger Russian girlfriend Laura (Korzun) and a four-year-old son in his world.
While all her material needs are catered for, Laura is wasting her young life – putting up with Alan's infidelity and inattentiveness and numbing herself with drink. That complacency is disturbed when Alan's estranged adult son Michael (Burrows) comes to visit. He's wondering whether his marriage with his now-pregnant wife can work and seems unwilling to give Laura a chance. But the more they talk, the more that changes.
Part inspired by director Ira Sachs' own experiences growing up in Memphis (his divorced entrepreneur father was another "larger-than-life personality" with "countless girlfriends"), 'Forty Shades of Blue' is a character study that, while slow-moving, is always watchable. Korzun, Torn and Burrows make a credible love triangle and the dreamy cinematography gives the whole story a sleepwalking-through-life quality. What the film needed were a few more scenes in the father-son, lover-son relationships and a more powerful ending.
That said, Sachs is a talent and, currently working on the film 'Marriage' with Pierce Brosnan, Patricia Clarkson and Rachel McAdams, one that we'll be seeing more from in the future.