11 July 2006 | Lechuguilla
Killer On The Road
It's a road movie, with a killer on-board. Brian Kessler (David Duchovny), a sophisticated, urbane writer, wants to conduct field research on American serial killers. But, neither he, nor his girlfriend, Carrie (Michelle Forbes), has the money for a cross-country tour of murder sites, so they advertise for someone to share travel expenses. Who they end up with is a young couple, Early Grayce (Brad Pitt) and his girlfriend, Adele (Juliette Lewis), two better examples of "poor white trash" you will never find in all of cinema.
Indeed, Early and Adele are what make this film so entertaining, as they babble, cackle, confide, muse, speculate, drool, and otherwise behave in ways I haven't seen since reruns of "The Beverly Hillbillies". Early's idea of California: "People think faster out there, on account of all that warm weather; cold weather makes people stupid". That's enough to convince Adele: "I guess that explains why there are so many stupid people around here". To which Early responds proudly: "It sure does". Early continues to instruct Adele about California: "You never have to buy no fruit, on account it's all on the trees ... and they ain't got no speed limits, and I hear your first month's rent is free, state law".
But poor Early has some, well, mental problems, which become ever more obvious to Brian and Carrie as the four travelers proceed west across the U.S. As they enter the desert Southwest, with its beautifully stark landscape, "Kalifornia" starts to look more and more like "The Hitcher" (1986), and Early starts to act more and more like John Ryder, everyone's maniacal hitchhiker, whose terror seemed so unstoppable.
In "Kalifornia", the acting is uneven. Duchovny's performance is flat. Brad Pitt is surprisingly effective, despite his overacting at times. Michelle Forbes is great as the avant-garde, photographic artist. But my choice for best performance goes to Juliette Lewis. With her nasal voice and heavy-duty Southern accent, she is stunning, as the naive, highly animated, child-like Adele.
Toward the end, the film takes on a Twilight Zone feel to it, as our travelers enter a Nevada nuclear test site with a dilapidated old house full of test mannequins. The plot dissolves rather messily into unnecessary and preposterous violence, an ending that was somewhat disappointing.
Overall, however, "Kalifornia" is an entertaining film, thanks to a clever concept, great scenery, especially in the second half, good cinematography, great dialogue, and that wonderful performance by Juliette Lewis.