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River of Grass

This is Kelly Reichardt’s directorial debut. The more recent films that I have seen are incredible, so I wanted to go back and try to look at her earlier filmography. River of Grass tells the story of Cozy, a bored housewife trapped inside of her own head and who fantasizes about a more exciting kind of life. One night she leaves her kids and walks toward somewhere; when she reaches the road, she is nearly run over by Lee Roy. A bit later, they meet up in a bar, and Cozy’s world seems to perk up; she sees a man who can provide some excitement in her life. After they apparently accidentally shoot somewhat, they hit the road together. This film is quite fascinating. The first thing that struck me is the sense of place and character that Reichardt creates. Cozy voices over during the entire film, and we get to be inside of her head as she heads down a path that isn’t what she thought it would be. I was reminded very strongly of the Sean Baker films, like Starlet and Tangerine, that immerse the viewer into the worlds of people who live on the margin. Character and place are everything. This film in some ways provides insight into Reichardt’s unique style as she moved into more western themes in her later films. For example, in First Cow, two people meet up who scheme a way to make money in the emerging capitalism of Amerca. Here, we have Cozy and Lee, also two people who are deeply part of the mosaic of America, who meet up with a dream of something better. The film has the feel of an old B movie and is also quite funny in places. I really enjoyed the film; thumbs up from me. (1994; 3.5 Stars)

About Gary Burkholder

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