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RIVER OF GRASS

USA, 1993 (MIFF 1994)

Director: Kelly Reichardt

"A road movie that goes nowhere, a love story without the love, a crime story without a crime."

Borne out of the energy-sapping heat of the Florida suburban swamps, River Of Grass is a sly and knowing revisionist take on the B-movie tradition. Like the relentless Miami sun on the tawdry tract houses of its protagonists, Kelly Reichardt's lean script strips the romance off the road movie to lay bare its desperate, pathetic essence.

When terminally bored housewife Cozy comes to the realisation that her life - an invisible husband and three kids on a soggy acre between Miami and the Florida Everglades - leaves something to be desired, she sneaks out one night to a local bar and meets her Mr Maybe. As soon as we see Lee, the aimless loser with a daunting sense of ambition ("to just drink"), we know that he and Cozy are in for a long and inglorious ride to nowhere. Just whether she realises this, is unclear. When the pair come across a handgun, the vital ingredient is added. That the gun has been lost by Cozy's absent minded father (a former jazz drummer turned cop, played with wit and a nod to the legion of bumbling 60s TV detectives by Dick Russell), only makes things more ridiculous.

Reichardt's anti-heroes successfully bungle their way through living the life of outlaws, but they can't seem to get it right; efforts to take it on the lam are thwarted for want of the twenty-five cent highway toll.

Shot on the run, with no money, her family house and her dad's handgun (he really is a Florida cop!), Kelly Reichardt and her collaborators have captured terrific performances and a remarkable sense of ennui. Utilising a designer's eye for the use of dynamic colour, this is a delightfully deadpan anti-movie, a Gun Crazy for the 90's.

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