'Gas Food Lodging: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Brooke Adams, Ione Skye, Fairuza Balk, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1992) 2018 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: Abandoned by her husband, Nora (Brooke Adams, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Stuff) waitresses to keep her head above water while raising two teenagers in a small New Mexico town trailer park.
Their life is turned on its head when Trudi finds that she has fallen pregnant after a string of promiscuous relationships and the girls' absent father returns with hopes of mending the relationships he broke when he left.
Blu-ray Verdict: Allison Anders' unabashedly southern drama 'Gas Food Lodging' concerns Nora (Brooke Adams), a struggling waitress with two teenage daughters, who wants nothing more than the best life for both of them as they live paycheck-to-paycheck in a congested trailer park home.
She is single after her husband abandoned them following the birth of their two daughters, and she is left to raise the rebellious teen Trudi (Ione Skye), who would rather skip school to work alongside her mother and chase boys and the more introverted tween Shade (Fairuza Balk), who wants nothing more than her mother to find true love.
Nora's life becomes more complicated when Trudi's disinterest in school is fueled when she meets Dank (Robert Knepper), a British petrologist, who knows the direct way to her impressionable mind.
Dank puts every situation Trudi has gone to in perspective and provides a listening ear that isn't judgmental nor indicative, rationalizing her promiscuity due to the fact that she lost her virginity in a gang rape many years ago. Trudi's insistence on skipping school, and even work, for Dank leads Nora to give Trudi one month to find a new home.
In the meantime, Shade makes an attempt to seduce Darius (Donovan Leitch), a boy from school she has a crush on, by dressing up with a wig and a dress. When that plan falls apart, she becomes infatuated with Javier (Jacob Vargas), a local boy with a blunt attitude, who also teases her about her outfit immediately after her attempt to entice Darius falls through.
However, Shade's main goal of setting her mother up with a halfway decent man comes to fruition when she finds Raymond (Chris Mulkey), a local gravedigger who proves to be more than she bargained for.
I can continue on with the plot of 'Gas Food Lodging', right down to the moment when the end credits roll, but that's not what this review is for.
'Gas Food Lodging' plays like a more compelling and well-acted soap-opera, predicated on believable locational problems for its characters and real human drama rather than a constant array of dramatic circumstances positioned to provoke "oohs" and "ahhs" from us, the viewing audience.
Beneath its sun-soaked exterior and its desolate landscape is a film concerning the deep, human desire to be wanted. Anders picks a more vibrant and colorful film about alienation than I've seen in quite some time.
It's a film where the characters don't have to actively march around like they are miserable, self-loathing misfits, but rather, those who feel like making the best of a bad situation whilst trying to find someone they can tolerate who also loves and respects them.
Nora, while never openly admitting it, is trying to find love and acceptance to fill the void of her husband, who kicked it relatively early after the birth of Shade. She slums and wastes away at a waitress job, making ends meet but compromising her talent and happiness for a paltry paycheck each and every week.
Shade, on the other hand, finds solace in old Mexican films. The only one not looking to find a relationship for herself, Shade represents selflessness and a Jane Austen, Emma-esque character of trying to play matchmaker for her mother in order to kickstart some kind of long lost happiness.
Shade seems to be the kind of person who will strive to make everyone else around her happy, only to tragically look around one day and recognize that she is incomplete in life.
Then there's Trudi, the character the film wants us to focus on the most. Trudi is the kind of woman with motivations not uncommon to many teenage girls and that motivation is to ditch the drudgery of homework, pop quizzes, and tests and embark on a life far more exciting and enriching than anything that could be housed inside a schoolbook.
Trudi is also the kind of person that has a fear and an inability to cope with being alone with her thoughts, which is why she'll search and try to befriend somebody, regardless of how bad or toxic they may be to her well being, in a romantic way with hopes that she can achieve some kind of connection.
In closing, 'Gas Food Lodging' (out now as a brand new Special Edition via Arrow Academy / MVD Visual) is an appropriate title for this film because it deals with the immediate things in conventional American life; we need gas to commute, food to survive, and lodging to thrive and life comfortably.
What's missing from that title is love, connection, and happiness. Maybe those things could be secondary or buried underneath other priorities necessary to be viable? It's up to you. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation, approved by director Allison Anders
Original Uncompressed 2.0 Audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
The Road to Laramie: A Look Back at Gas Food Lodging, a brand new interview with Allison Anders and Josh Olson
Cinefile: Reel Women italicise(Chris Rodley, 1995), a documentary looking at the challenges women face in the film industry from independent to studio filmmaking, featuring interviews with Allison Anders, Kathryn Bigelow, Jane Campion, Penny Marshall, Gale Anne Hurd and others
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film