Monday, September 8, 2008

Freeway (Matthew Bright, 1996)

Unchecked lewdness, moments of excessive violence, scenes of abhorrent tastelessness, and most importantly of all, it's funny as a dark, "Oh, no, she didn't!" kinda way. The rambunctious Freeway is a film that not only celebrates the tawdrier aspects of society (underage prostitution, girl-on-girl roughhousing, bilingual solicitation), but also manages to be one of the funniest films I have seen in a long-ass time. Using the classic folktale Little Red Riding Hood as his foundation, writer-director Matthew Bright (Forbidden Zone) has taken the story of a hood-wearing picnic enthusiast with a Grandmother fixation and turned it into a modern day allegory about sexual abuse, serial killers and parental ineptitude. In this souped-up version of the old-timey children's fable we follow the messed up adventures of teenage hellion, Vanessa Lutz (Reese Witherspoon), an illiterate, shapely legged little terror, who enjoys locking whoremonger's in the trunks of cars and making shanks in her spare-time. The film starts off with Vanessa's streetwalker mom (a scrumptiously sleazy Amanda Plummer) and deviant stepfather (a twitchy Michael T. Weiss) being arrested on the same day. And, as you would expect, the foulmouthed scamp is quite despondent. So she ditches her parole officer and hatches a plan to stay with Grandma, who lives up in Stockton, California (the town where Fat City was filmed and the birthplace of Pavement). Only problem is, her lemon of a car breaks down on the freeway. Fortunately (and I use that word carefully), a kindly stranger named Bob Wolverton (Kiefer Sutherland) offers to give her a ride the rest of the way.

Sexy and full of spunk, Reese Witherspoon blew the hell out of me as Vanessa, the sassiest piece of jailbait this side of Flin Flon. The scrunchy-faced actress completely destroys my image of her in this movie.

Discharging a rapid fire barrage of hilariously filthy put-downs at anyone within earshot, Reese gives an impassioned and volatile performance that left me dumbfounded. In Vanessa Lutz, Miss Witherspoon has created a character so enchanting, so endearing, that I get all tingly just thinking about her. Whether she's gently pistol-whipping necrophiliacs in the back of the head or beating a fellow inmate with a pay-phone receiver, Vanessa trampled her way into the blackened recesses of my perverted heart.

Her interrogation scene with the always reliable Dan Heydaya and Wolfgang Bodison (I loved the way he seemed aroused by Lutz' descriptions of her past crimes) is the best example of Reese's acting mettle (wonderfully unselfconscious and feisty to the max). This particular scene is also a great example of the film's very un-PC dialogue. I also adored the fact her step dad taught her how to make a juvie-quality shank.

Oh, and the look Reese's face in that picture detectives show to Kiefer when he's in the hospital was the funniest thing I've seen in years.

A girl-loving Brittany Murphy is totally awesome as Rhonda (Reese's slightly unhinged bunk-mate while she's in prison). The way she said the lines, "I'm in here for huffin' paint" and "They found a gram of tar up my kooch" had me rolling near the floor.

The lover of tacky fashion in me thinks Brooke Shields' seafaring wardrobe and dangly jewelry deserves major kudos. On top of that, I thought Tara Subkoff's leg brace was a wonderfully odd character touch; the makeup used to create Kiefer's grotesque smile was well-crafted; and Alanna Ubach's strangling technique was absolutely splendid in its ghastliness. You know what they say, nothing beats getting strangled to death in a gas station restroom.


1 comment:

  1. Can't believe I missed this review.

    Agree with every point. When the late Brittany M. talks about "huffing paint", the world shifts a little.

    Easily Witherspoon's best performance. I love her standing by the road shouiting "Sex-O!, too." Would not been out ofp lace in Rinse Dream's PARTY DOLL A-GO-GO.

    Terrific credit sequence, too, with great Elfman music.

    Bright's BUNDY is fantastic, too.