10 November 2010 | mjneu59
understated indie character study
Any armchair geographer knows there is no lake at China Lake, and in the film of the same name the bone-dry Mojave Desert setting would seem the perfect location for an overdue family reunion. It all takes place in the cultural wasteland between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, where lonely widower Ed Wodzinski sits alone in his trailer home watching re-runs of 'The People's Court' and sending his teenage son on daily errands. Their routine is broken by the sudden arrival from Milwaukee of Aunt Edna and Laura, Ed's daughter, a punk rocker with a chip on her shoulder. Nothing much happens after that, and yet everything is different by the time the guests leave. The story is understated almost to the point of invisibility, but writer director Dieter Weihl (making his feature debut) is able to suggest a lot more than he shows. The film invites comparison to the minimalist comedies of Jim Jarmusch, but Weihl clearly has more affection for his characters, the most dominant of which is the empty but inviting (like the film itself) desert landscape.