THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1994, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Thursday, October 6, 1994 TAG: 9410050059 SECTION: DAILY BREAK PAGE: E3 EDITION: FINAL TYPE: Movie Review SOURCE: BY MAL VINCENT, MOVIE CRITIC LENGTH: Medium: 77 lines
CARLY MARSHALL is yet another Southern belle disillusioned by the real world. Like Tennessee Williams' Blanche Dubois, she is more interested in what ought to be than in what actually is. Like Scarlett herself, she knows her power over men, and likes to use it.
Her teen daughter cynically points out that ``even though she claims she was the most popular girl in Richmond, she's actually from a chicken farm near Norfolk.''
In spite of the geographical slur, ``Blue Sky'' is a showpiece performance for Jessica Lange, and the second example in a single movie week of the loosening up of an Oscar diva. Now that Meryl Streep has shown that woman can oar, Lange, another frequent Oscar nominee who badly needs a commercial hit, has taken to wearing tight dresses and dancing around like Marilyn Monroe. The woman she plays is obsessed with movies and other fantasies. The film opens with color photographs of Ava Gardner and closes with the heroine adopting a hairstyle that imitates Elizabeth Taylor.
In between, Lange portrays a form of military wife who has become common in folk lore - the disillusioned non-achiever who isn't so willing to wait at home. Military wives everywhere should turn out to take a look at how Hollywood portrays them.
The Marshall family, after two years of being stationed in Hawaii, has been moved to a base in Alabama. Carly takes one look at her new home and throws a fit. As played by Lange, the rage is entirely believable, even if way over the top. This, in fact, is one of the best performances in Lange's career - a good choice to lure her down from the mountains of Charlottesville, where she lives with playwright Sam Shepard.
Rarely has an actress been able to suggest near insanity by coming so close and still stepping back.
We first see Carly sunbathing nude for her husband, and all other helicopter pilots, to observe. She likes to attract attention.
Tommy Lee Jones, in one of his quieter and more thoughtful performances, is her Army husband, a nuclear engineer who loves her enough to put up with all her prancing around.To him, she is both child and wife; she even calls him ``Daddy.''
When she is seduced by base commander Powers Boothe, things get testy.
This film was made in 1991 but has been held out of release due to the bankruptcy of Orion Pictures. Amy Locane, who plays the daughter, and Chris O'Donnell (``The Three Musketeers,'' ``Scent of a Woman'') look like mere children compared to their present screen images. Director Tony Richardson (who won an Oscar for directing ``Tom Jones'') died soon after it was completed.
The film has slow pacing and nearly falls apart when it switches from the family drama to a concern with the effects of nuclear radiation. Jones is a naysayer who objects to the Army conducting secret tests that harm civilians. This subplot makes it look dangerously like a simple TV movie.
When it sticks to the family and to Lange's showy and fierce performance, it is something to watch. In a year that is, as usual, lacking in notable female performances, this might net her another Oscar nomination. It would not be an embarrassment to the Academy. ILLUSTRATION: ORION PICTURES
Jessica Lange may earn an Oscar nomination for ``Blue Sky,'' which
co-stars Tommy Lee Jones, left, and Powers Boothe.
Cast: Jessica Lange, Tommy Lee Jones, Powers Boothe, Chris
O'Donnell, Carrie Snodgrass, Amy Locane
MPAA rating: PG-13 (language, sexuality)
Mal's rating: ***
Locations: Military Circle, Norfolk; Kempsriver, Lynnhaven in