Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Running on Empty

The baby boomers had James Dean, the poster boy for teenage angst. Even decades after his untimely death, he still remains the pinnacle of adolescent misunderstanding. (Not bad for a guy with only three films to his name.)

A generation later, teenage angst had a new poster boy: River Phoenix. Like Dean, he portrayed the many troubles one faces as they grow up. (Just look at Stand by Me as an example.) And like Dean, Phoenix's life ended way too soon. (He met his fate by the way of an accidental multi-drug overdose.)

Phoenix's career wasn't for naught. He earned an Oscar nomination for his work in Sidney Lumet's Running on Empty. Interestingly, Phoenix's Danny Pope is similar to Dean's Jim Stark from Rebel Without a Cause. Both are the new kids in town, both quarrel with their parents (their father in particular) and both want acceptance.

Running on Empty doesn't rely solely on Phoenix's performance. (Although it is one of the main focal points.) The film also focuses on family dynamics (or, more accurately, the lack of them). The Popes aren't as dysfunctional as the Tyrones from Long Day's Journey into Night (another film of Lumet's), but the lack of communication within the Pope family makes them look like the Tyrones.

Running on Empty isn't one of the best Lumet films but it's one of the strongest if strictly for Phoenix's performance. There's also good work from Christine Lahti and Judd Hirsch. But again, this show belongs to Phoenix.

My Rating: ****

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this. It's hard to watch River Phoenix films, I always wonder what else he could've done with his career.


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