Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 2 hours 59 minutes
MPAA Rating: NC-17 for Explicit Sexual Content
(French with English subtitles)
Directed by: Abdellatif Kechiche
Written by: Abdellatif Kechiche & Ghalia Lacroix
(based on the graphic novel LE BLEU EST UNE COULEUR CHAUDE by Julie Maroh)
Starring: Lea Seydoux, Adele Exarchopolous, Jeremie Laheurte, Catherine Salee, Aurelien Recoing & Sandor Funtek
BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR is a romance adapted straight from an acclaimed French graphic novel. This cinematic version is three-hours long. The French title of the film literally translates into “THE LIFE OF ADELE: CHAPTERS 1 and 2).” It should also be noted that Criterion (a company known for promoting important cinema) plans to release the eventual DVD and Blu-Ray. Why am I telling you all of this? Because it will come into play with some of my criticisms in this review. BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR has been critically acclaimed and can be considered a massive step in the right direction for equality in cinema (despite the theater-restrictive NC-17 rating). It doesn’t come without faults, some of which definitely deterred from my enjoyment of the film.
The story follows Adele, a Junior in high school. While her friends seem to just gossip about boys, she seems to want something a little different. In order to conform, she goes out with a boy interested in her and winds up doing the nasty with him. Though he really enjoys her company, she feels like she’s faking it and rightly so. So after dumping him, Adele discovers herself. She’s attracted to girls. It is in a gay bar that she comes across the beautiful Emma, a few years older than Adele and deeply attracted to her. The two begin a secret love that becomes something beautiful, but as life goes on, so do the struggles it presents. Is this relationship between Adele and Emma meant to last?
BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR shows enormous promise for the first half of the film. The characters are likable and this in turn is due to the amazing performances by these two young actresses. It doesn’t matter what you orientation or gender is, everyone can relate to Adele in some way. We’ve all been at an awkward intersection in our youth where we are finding ourselves. Emma is a good force in letting Adele decide what she wants from life. The chemistry between the two characters is strong and their love progresses naturally. What begins with affection develops into something stronger.
The second half of the film is where most of where most of my beef lies. Plenty of unneeded scenes are thrown in. Interesting subplots get neglected in order to visit tried and overly familiar territory. The only difference here is that the couple also face added discrimination, a result of their sexual orientation. One of the criminal sins committed in the cinematic world is boring your audience. At three hours long, there was plenty of time to create an interesting direction to take the story and the first half is brilliance, which adds to the initial disappointment of the rest of the film wandering aimlessly.
The NC-17 rating is mainly due to a couple of explicit sex scenes. One of which is so pretentiously long (10 full minutes) that it becomes unintentionally funny in some ways. The conclusion to the film itself is anti-climactic. I wasn’t expecting a Hollywood style ending, but I did want some resolution and the film just seems to come to an end with no rhyme or reason. To make matters worse, the ending of the original graphic novel is far more interesting. This film adaptation failed to elicit a positive response from the source material’s creator and it’s not hard to see why.
BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR is far from a bad film. In fact, the first 90 minutes were pure A+ material. It’s in the second half that things get so bogged down and frequently dull that the viewer can’t help but be a tad bored. The ending itself is a let-down too. Overall, it’s an okay movie that began with a lot of promise and ended as a bit of a missed opportunity.