In a small town in New Mexico, a single mom (Brooke Adams, Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers) struggles to raise her two teen daughters (Ione Skye, Say Anything, and Fairuza Balk, American History X).
Reaction & Thoughts:
“I won’t be alone. Not like you!”
Emotionally-charged kitchen-sink-drama told from a female perspective. These types of movies tend to cover similar ground, so the key is to try to make it look fresh and interesting. Based on the well-received 1972 novel Don’t Look and It Won’t Hurt by Richard Peck, Gas Food Lodging manages to set itself apart from similar-themed movies through a masterful handling of real-life day-to-day problems.
Ione Skye is the rebellious older daughter and Fairuza Balk plays Skye’s quirky little sister. They are both excellent. The two teenagers face a lot of challenges — growing pains, self-esteem issues — and there are times when it is difficult to see the girls suffer. However, despite constantly making bad choices, I never stopped rooting for them.
Brooke Adams steals the show as Skye and Balk’s single-mother stuck in a dead-end job. Adams is the backbone of the film, and single-handedly makes the movie more realistic — you can clearly see a lifetime of disappointments in her tired, dispirited eyes. I’ve always been a huge fan of the actress and I wasn’t all that surprised to see her deliver a superb performance — it’s probably Adams’s best film work to date.
I also loved James Brolin’s (The Amityville Horror) performance — he plays the girls’ well-intentioned, but kinda useless dad. It’s a small role, but he is wonderful. Frankly, I never thought much of him as an actor, but I think I will be eating crow tonight — Brolin is brilliantly understated ala Ben Johnson or Sam Shepard.
In addition to great acting, Gas Food Lodging offers honesty in spades. There aren’t any last-minute solutions to big problems. Like life itself, many things are left unresolved and characters lick their wounds and try to move on. Furthermore, the atmosphere of a rundown small town is vividly captured by cinematographer Dean Lent.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Sensitively written and directed by Allison Anders (Grace of My Heart), Gas Food Lodging is a little indie gem. The film addresses many issues with heart and intelligence. It’s poignant without being maudlin. It’s also a brave movie — it’s an uncompromising slice of American life. A movie you should watch if you liked A Taste of Honey (1961) and/or Georgy Girl (1966). Color, 96 minutes, Rated PG.