Adapted from a Martin Amis novel that is reportedly a parody of American crime fiction, Out of Blue, written and directed by Carol Morley, is a maudlin, incoherent snooze of a thriller that takes itself far too seriously. With the strong production values of a slick television series and a mostly veteran cast, there’s no reason it should fail to hit so many of its marks. But there’s only one reason to see it, and that’s not enough to justify its nearly two hour running time.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the plot, but its execution is almost a total failure. A combination of overheated dialogue (including a lecture on black holes that waxes on “its cold, dark heart”) and mostly indifferent line readings make the characters almost universally unconvincing. The New Orleans setting is leached of any personality save bad regional accents and a token appearance of the Meters’ “Cissy Strut” on the soundtrack during a strip club scene. Even Toby Jones, as a professor who’s briefly a suspect, shows little of the distinction that has made him such a watchable character actor.The one major exception to all this tedium acts like she’s in the proverbial completely different movie, and one wishes that movie had been made instead. Jacki Weaver, who was perfectly cast as Lisa’s mother in The Disaster Artist, plays Miriam Rockwell, the victim’s mother. She ravenously chews up every scene she’s in, quoting Chinatown as a warning to the nosy investigator and working herself up into a frenzy, her fingers and dress stained from chicken wings as she gleefully spills he daughter’s ashes into a dumpster.

Weaver is hilarious, and unfortunately nothing else in the movie comes close to her strange vitality. Morley directs everyone else with a lethargy that is supposed to convey the weight of personal burdens but seems more like everybody wants to take a nap. The direction fails even at the level of blocking, when Clarkson awkwardly moves into position under a family portrait to examine it more closely and ask, “why, why”—much as the viewer will shake their head with the same question.

Out of Blue would be at least 60% better if it weren’t for the awful heavy-handed score, but, with that one exception, this was a misguided project from top to bottom. Morley previously found some success with the documentary Dreams of a Life, which explored the case of a London woman whose body was found in her apartment some three years after she had died. That film’s fascinating struggle with the difficulty of knowing another human being echoes strongly throughout the fake gravitas of this script, which beats you over the head with the blunt object of its cosmic metaphors. If, like the film’s characters, one is inclined to imagine the possibility of alternate worlds, then it’s best that they’re transported to the world in which Jacki Weaver got to star in the movie in which her inspired performance belongs.

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