River of Grass

River of Grass ★★★

Takes the outer form of Bonnie and Clyde (and Badlands) and hollows it out until there's just this unnerving, hypnotizing void. It reminded me of the loitering of Jarmusch and the banal ennui of the Coens. And this premise alone makes it all work quite well for a while, reducing the "criminals on the run" formula down to virtually nothing, to the extent that interesting philosophical questions can't help but be conjured up simply by the surrounding atmospheric emptiness of the story -- like a long pause in a conversation that makes one person feel like they have to speak. Especially considering the obviousness of the archetype/homage Reichardt is employing, it's quite an interesting and confident trick!

However, that it doesn't really progress beyond this trick, beyond the basic premise's intriguing gimmick does seem like a flaw. The last act fizzles a bit, and the ending just kind of plops into being, not really capitalizing on this interrogation of the American spirit and its corresponding void. Which, probably that's the whole point? An interesting probability, for sure... Maybe with time I'll age out of being such a rube and I'll buy it more fully.

In the end, it all still works, and clearly makes the initial case for Reichardt as a kind of silent-but-lethal filmmaker -- an identity which she would come to absolutely master.

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