American independent director Allison Anders made her name with this keenly observed tale of a single mother and her two daughters stuck in the truck-stop town of Laramie, New Mexico, barely a fly speck on the never-ending... more » desert horizon. Ione Skye and Fairuza Balk star as sisters Trudi and Shade, who couldn't be more different. Trudi rebels against her mother and her soul-numbing life through sex and develops a reputation among the boys for being easy. Shade is the "good girl" who escapes through the overripe Mexican melodramas in the town's largely vacant theater. Brooke Adams, a loving mother hardened by rejection and a demanding job as a truck-stop waitress, tries to hide her loneliness and disappointment and set Trudi on a better path, but as with so many relationships in this film, conflict brings out the worst in them. Anders, a single mother herself, drew on her own experiences to enrich her adaptation of Richard Peck's novel Don't Look and It Won't Hurt, and she brings a haggard understanding to the strained relations between mother and daughter and the bleak desolation to the lives of three women trapped by circumstance, economics, and landscape, but she also reaches deep into the characters to expose their yearnings and steel their resolve. No knight in shining armor for these women, but Anders allows them to make their way through the emotional landscape with pluck and determination. --Sean Axmaker« less
"Normally, I have to be tied to a chair to watch this sort of movie. But my girlfriend at the time made me watch it and it really got to me. Unlike the sappy drivel you find Sandra Bullock or Julia Roberts starring in, this movie is very depressing (in a good way) and painfully realistic. There is no hunky guy to sweep the heroine off her feet at the end. These girls and their mother have a hard time throughout and the bleak landscape of New Mexico only adds to the sadness. Bergman would have a hard time making such a melancholy film. The best man AVAILABLE (at the end, you'll know why I emphasized that word) in the movie is a nerdy satellite TV installer. The others are deadbeats, drunks, lechers. When Shade finds a boyfriend from the other side of the tracks, you can't blame her since the boys and men from her part of town are such lowlifes. The language and emotions in this movie are VERY raw and no punches are pulled. A few scenes stand out from all the sadness. When Shade (Fairuza Balk) is with her new boyfriend, it seems so sweet and innocent. First love is usually the cruelest, but this time it's the one really good thing to happen. The mother's courtship by the satellite guy is also a break from the bleak scenery. Most of all, it's two scenes with Trudi (Ione Skye) that stand out. In one there is no dialogue, just the sound of a guitar being strummed. Trudi is waiting and longing for her boyfriend to come back for her. She is holding a fluorescent rock he gave her. Her face is lit by the afternoon sun as a train passes by in the background. This scene is a reflection of love and anticipation, since she is obviously thinking of him. However, it is also sad because you get the feeling he may never come back. The other scene takes place in a cave lined with fluorescent rocks. Trudi and her geologist boyfriend drive out to look for some sort of rare rock. In the cave the two grow closer and in an almost psychedelic sequence, Trudi bares her breasts in a way that "offers" them to her lover. He seems hesitant at first but then makes love to her. The scene is primeval, almost Adam and Eve-like, as though they are the first man and woman on Earth. It is also very erotic! Ione Skye never looked more beautiful and the weird bluish light reflected in her face and on her breasts from the cave wall is hauntingly beautiful and dreamlike. Afterward, she tells him a painful personal secret. It's amazing how many emotions are conveyed in such a short scene. So much of the movie reflects sorrow, regret, longing and anger that these scenes stand out all the more. Allison Anders is a true artist."
A forgotten gem...
B. Berthold | Somewhere out west... | 06/22/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Before 'Thirteen' and 'American Beauty,' there was 'Gas Food Lodging.' I can remember when I first watched it some ten years ago. Not expecting much from this almost unknown indie flick, I was clued to the screen for the next hour and a half. While its story of an overworked single mother struggling to raise her two daughters was nothing new, something about it just shined. Like a diamond, it sparkled with a crisp innocence and yet cut with a hard edge. Growing up in a similarly barren environment like Laramie, New Mexico, it wasn't difficult to connect with this film.Ten years later, this film still packs a punch. Despite its flaws which have become more obvious over time, Allison Anders' film still hits home with its gritty power.Its strongest attraction is its very plausible portrayal of life in the middle of nowhere. Brooke Adams plays the single-mom waitress fighting to hold her family together, while her daughters search for a way out of their loneliness. Frustrated with her oldest daughter's rebellious ways, Adams' character wears the face of constant helplessness. For those of us who have undergone the same, their screaming parent-child tirades are painful to watch. Ione Skye's Trudi, the wayward 'bad girl' who hides her scars with boyfriend after boyfriend, is the highlight of the film. At times touchingly wounded and at others, screechingly impossible, Trudi embodies the chaos of growing up. Her withdrawn and innocent little sister, Shade (Fairuza Balk) fills up her father void by spending her afternoons watching Spanish tearjerkers at the near-empty town cinema. When she finally follows her heart and falls for somebody from the wrong side of town, you end up pulling for her. Sparing nobody, all of Anders' characters carry deep wounds. No heroines nor heros here. Victims of a shattered home and a bleak future, all three women struggle to break free and find their little slice of happiness. While the 'men always leave' undercurrent of the film comes across heavy-handed at times, Anders refreshingly refuses simple answers. While most of the men in the film DO fall under the 'loser' category--weak and self-destructive, Anders is careful to be balanced. James Brolin is great as the washed-out ex who, despite his aw-shucks cowboy charm, does nothing to win back his girls. Fatherhood for him means giving a few bucks (his girlfriend's nonetheless!)to Shade. Yet, what saves 'Gas Food Lodging' from being a depressing man-bashing polemic is that all three women eventually find partners who, although far from being flawless, stand by their women. Anders couldn't have picked a better backdrop for her film. The spartan beauty of the New Mexican desert mirrors the sharp edges and bleak prospects of her characters. Moreover, J. Mascis' (Dinosaur Jr.) soundtrack perfectly underscores the sorrow and loneliness of the film. The songs are great by themselves, but together with the desert sunsets and tumbleweed trailer parks, the end-result is magic.While not a perfect film, 'Gas Food Lodging' is still a rare treat for those lucky enough to stumble upon it. For those looking for a tightly-acted and moving family drama, 'Gas Food Lodging' won't disappoint!"
I'm not sure how I missed this movie
Bryan Foster | Petoskey, MI USA | 04/05/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"So, I just watched Gas Food Lodging for the first time. Wow!
First of all, any movie that has narrative voice over always makes me smile. I don't know exactly why, they just do. I think because it gives far mor insight as to what's happening.
These three women living on the outskirts of a dying town smacked of "The last picture show". Life has dealt each a pretty hard hand and it's hard to tell if Mom Nora, older sister Trudi, or young Shady Lynne has it the worst. Nora's found love where she could and it's burnt her every time and that's been passed right on down to her two daughters.
They've no faith that it will ever change, yet they continue to try to find love anyway. Quietly surprising and very entertaining, I would say to run out and pick this up today."
"Afraid of Not Having Any Daydreams"
chel | 10/29/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie takes place in the 1990's in a dessert town of Laramie, New Mexico. Nora (Brook Adams), is a single mother raising her two daughters the best that she can. She is a waitress at a gas stop/restaurant. Her oldest daughter is Trudi (Ione Skye), who is know around the town as being easy, and ends up pregnant by a Dink, who is a English man, whose job is to look for rare rocks. She gives her mom a hard time, she stays out late at night, and is not going to school. The youngest daughter is Shade (Fairuza Balk), she is considered the "good girl" of the two. She loves to go see movies that star Elvia Rivero. Shade or Shad, wants to be like a "normal" family. She wants to have a father figure, so she looks for a man for her mother. Each one of these characters are looking for love, and this movie not only shows the hard ship of life of each one of them, but also shows their search for love. On a scale of one to five, I give this movie a five. I really do like this movie. This drama keeps you entertained through the whole movie. I was hoping that for each of them that they would find their true love, and for them to live "happily ever after." The adaptation of Richard Peck's novel, Don't Look and It Won't Hurt is well written, and the actors and actress do a great job. If you like dramas about people looking for love, then you may want to check this out. "
Watch both the widescreen and pan-and-scan versions.
chel | 09/25/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is quite a bit of artistry here for such a low-budget film. Both the widescreen and pan-and-scan versions have their faults as well as their good points.The widescreen version shows much more of the brilliant cinematography. The dreary desert, the railroad station, even the trailer park really come alive here. On the other hand, during the famous sex scene in the acid-trip cavern, the picture is cropped right above Ione Skye's breasts, whereas in the pan-and-scan, there is a full view. This has led me to wonder if this is a "false" widescreen -i.e., the film was shot with standard, @16:9 cameras and cropped to make it look widescreen even if it never was, as Disney did with Peter Pan. It would be nice if standardized and accurate information about aspect ratio was printed clearly on all DVDs. By the way, the MOVIE is one of the best tearjerkers I've ever seen. The performances are perfect, as is the script. The picture is beautiful. Of course if I actually had to live in a desert trailer park, I don't think I'd be so impressed with the scenery."