The 1990's were, for a time, a very exciting decade for cinema. Staggering out of the 80's with a coke hangover and indulgence fatigue, we experienced somewhat of a revolution in cinema. What was once ridiculously overblown and self-aggrandising became understated, simplified and strayed from the norm somewhat. We started referencing movies within our movies, we turned our attention to the exploitation cinema of the preceding decades and the film noir of the early half of the 20th century.
One of the sub-genres which grew substantially in popularity was the road movie. The likes of True Romance (1993), Natural Born Killers (1994), Thelma & Louise (1991) and Kalifornia (1993) popularised the concept of taking the actions out of the city and onto the highways. This gave the movies a sense of freedom and adventure which is of course, the very ideals which America was founded upon. They were, in the most part, pursuit and / or escape movies. The anti-heroes featured were usually on the run from something, be it the law or an unhappy lifestyle.
Slightly late to the dance was American Perfekt (1997), which features, upon reflection, some fascinating casting choices. Robert Forster, Fairuza Balk, David Thewlis, Amanda Plummer and Paul Sorvino all play their parts magnificently in this almost forgotten slice of oddball Americana.
Plummer plays Sandra Thomas, a woman who clearly hasn't managed to get her life completely together and who is driving across the desert to meet her sister Alice (Balk) who has absolutely no interest in getting hers together at all. After a near fatal crash, Sandra meets Jake Nyman (Forster) who helps her out as her car is practically totalled.
After the setup, we are thrust into a world of seedy motels and small town cops, of bar skanks and confidence tricksters (Thewlis is particularly slimy, repuslsive and wonderful in this, however, nothing will ever frighten me as much as his performance in 'Naked'). No one seems particularly trustworthy and this creates a Twin peaks feel to the movie in that it keeps you constantly guessing as to what the motives and true back stories of the characters. It was written and directed by Paul Chart, an artist who has done little else since, but if this is anything to go by, another offering would be graciously received.
The film spirals into a tense, dusty thriller which has both a charm and a quality that whilst being very much 'of the time', hold up exceptionally well fifteen years later. If you haven't yet had the pleasure of American Perfekt and enjoyed the aforementioned road movies, then this would be a great investment of a few hours.
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