Gas, Food Lodging (1992)

I remember Say Anything and The Rachel Papers, movies in which Ione Skye played women (girls) on pedestals. Unattainable, perfect, pure in spirit and looks. Skye was kind of a poor-woman’s (girl’s) Liv Tyler; she had some talent, but playing similar roles didn’t really make her light shine brighter.

Here, she’s the bad older sister to Fairuza Balk’s good little sister (also ironic, because Balk’s played bad girls since this movie came out), siblings raised by their waitress-single mom (Brooke Adams) in the middle of the New Mexico desert. You know the tale – a lack of male role model, dead-end town, bad luck in love. But the chemistry of Balk and Skye raise this just enough.

Skye is Trudy, the rebellious teen who dresses like a slut and acts the role. Balk’s her younger sister Shade, a devotee of the local Mexican cinema and the protagonist of this character-driven tale. She wants to find a man for their mom, but her mom will have none of it. Meanwhile, tumbleweeds roll by intermittently for no good reason, which probably happens a lot in the desert, come to think of it – a surefire symbol for the aimless life of the small-town denizen.

Make no mistake – this here is a chick flick. I don’t mind them on occasion, but this one never grabbed me the way, say, Sleepless in Seattle did. It’s not sentimental enough to be weepy OR maudlin, it just kind of floats about listlessly, like its characters.

But for its generic vanillaness, the film’s lifted a little bit by the great work by Balk (quite young at the time) and Skye.

Gas, Food Lodging: **1/2


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