Gas Food Lodging (1992)

Synopsis:

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.

This is my contribution to Girl Week 2021, hosted by Dell on Movies.

22 responses to “Gas Food Lodging (1992)

  1. This is one of those odd movies where I remember the circumstances of my seeing it. I was in a hotel on a work trip and I couldn’t sleep…so I watched this. It’s a great, unassuming movie with an ending that has managed to stick with me for a couple of decades. Great choice!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Can’t believe I never saw this one. It would have been right up my alley on a Saturday afternoon. The fact that the ending has stayed with SJHoneywell for several decades is an HUGE endorsement! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This was one of those indie “grunge films” we’d drive 20 miles to see at an out-of-the-way theater. It’s been years, but I recall J.Mascis from Dinosaur, Jr. had a bit part in it, but he did the soundtrack. Of course, Allison Anders was always very music-centric in her works, so with her and J.Mascis: it was two reasons to see it. She made her debut with Border Radio, which starred John Doe and Chris D. from the Divine Horsemen. That was an important VHS rental — at least it was at the time.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks for reminding me of this wonderful film. I saw it probably a year or so after it came out, when I was a teenager myself, and I remember that Skye’s performance in particular really resonated with me. Your great review makes me want to watch it again. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

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