Magazine article Screen International

'The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea': Tribeca Review

Magazine article Screen International

'The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea': Tribeca Review

Article excerpt

Dir. Bill Purple, US, 2016. 108 minutes

In The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea, a man who has gone adriftfinds his emotional compass thanks to a runaway teenager played by Game of Thrones' Maisie Williams. Yet this well-meaning debut feature about following your dreams just treads water. As a bereaved architect in New Orleans, Jason Sudeikis is sure to bring some of his fans along for this stab at the tragicomic, but neither this cast nor this story are enough for The Devil to make too many waves.

Bill Purple's first feature as a director and co-writer opens as artist Penny (Jessica Biel) is goading her Every-Nerd architect husband, Henry (Sudeikis), to "be bold." When Penny's carefree driving gets her killed on the road, Henry goes into a tailspin (hence the title), until he befriends an angry orphan teen, Millie (Williams), who gathers wood on the street and propels him on to crazier things, such as building an ocean-going raft.

Millie's mission is to turn scrap into a vessel like Kon-Tiki, or the one on which her late father was lost at sea. Escaping from his own grief, Henry chops down trees in his garden and dismantles parts of his house to get her there.

Purple and co-writer Robbie Pickering tie their story together with voice-overs by Williams, full of home-spun wisdom echoing young Quvenzhané Wallis's narration in Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012), another Louisiana tale of obstinacy and true grit.

Defying the obvious expectations, The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea is about two misfits stumbling toward an ideal, rather than hooking up. Don't expect cross-generational sex, or anything close to it, in this story of pluck and perseverance. Purple and his producers seem to be aiming at a family audience, although that goal doesn't keep the word "shit" from being uttered in almost every sentence.

What Purple does give you is dull Henry's transformation into a free spirit, complete with a beard (that makes Sudeikis look younger) and a scandalised boilerplate mother-in-law played by Mary Steenburgen. …

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