Clear Blue Tuesday
Directed by Elizabeth Lucas
Elizabeth Lucas's new musical Clear Blue Tuesday is nothing if not ambitious: Documenting seven Tuesdays in the lives of eleven loosely connected New Yorkers over the course of the six years following 9/11, the film attempts, through the power of song, dance, and drama, to encapsulate the zeitgeist of a city whose physical and emotional landscape were forever changed nearly nine years ago. Its cast is comprised of mostly unknown singers, songwriters, musicians, and actors who not only improvise their dialogue but perform songs that they themselves wrote. And, if that's not commendable enough, it was all shot in just 19 days.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, not everything here works. The film's tone slingshots all over the place in a way that makes it impossible to stay in tune; the eclectic song score doesn't flow particularly well (to say the least), and many musical numbers showcase choreography and visual effects that are embarrassing in their simplicity instead of charming (to say the very least). Every fifteen minutes or so, a title card lets us know that another year's passed, but we'd never really know it without being tipped off; not enough time is dedicated to the ensemble to see or care about their growth as people or as New Yorkers. Jain (Vedant Gokhale) sings in his opening number: "I'm not the guy that I used to be/And I don't know the real me." This identity confusion is true for most of the film's characters, but the viewer's never allowed to know what the "used to be" or "the real me" even is, rendering it difficult to invest in their individual reformations.
The exception, however, is Jan O'Dell as Caroline, a former businesswoman whose injuries on 9/11 leave her amassed in mountains of medical bills and personal suffering. Approaching her golden years and now jobless, Caroline's two journeys in the film—to reconnect with the son she left eight years ago and to find a new job that will allow her to feel a sense of purpose again—offer the kind of genuine drama and character development that's missing from much of the story's other lost souls. O'Dell plays Caroline with all the grace, warmth, and wisdom of any seasoned Hollywood vet, offering a heartbreaking portrayal of a woman desperately hoping to one day learn how to "breathe again." And while the film's other ten personalities may never reach this level of resonance, when O'Dell is onscreen, Clear Blue Tuesday soars.
Opens September 3