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Kalifornia (1993, Brad Pitt, Juliette Lewis)

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Brian Kessler (David Duchovny) and Carrie Lauglin (Michelle Forbes) are American liberals – young, intelligent, socially aware. Brian is working on an academic study of serial killers. He takes an undeniable erotic pleasure in visiting murder scenes, and his gruesome dinner-table tales are an endless amusement for their friends. Carrie, meanwhile, is a photographer whose ‘art’ imagery explores the bizarre physical attraction of opposites. But how far, we might ask, is she at ease with her own sexuality?

They decide to move out to California. They enjoy the frission of danger in doing something different, exploring the unpredictable. Or of talking about it, at least. If only they knew how far they were tempting fate… By contrast, Early Grayce (Brad Pitt) and Adele Corners (Juliette Lewis) are losers. Early is a drifter, on parole for violent assault, a king-size chip on his shoulder. She is barely 17, poor uneducated white trash, but as pretty as they come. When Brian advertises for passengers to share the cost of the California trip, it’s Early and Adele who are first to call.

Out on the road they take stock of each other, this strange mix of people who providence has thrown together. Brian and Carrie are polite but superior. Privately mocking the down-home accents and lousy table manners – even if, from a safe distance, Carrie might get off on Early’s undeniable physicality. But while Adele is knocked out by Carrie’s sophistication, Early himself remains as strangely indifferent to her as he is to the murder sites they call in on en route. He has other things on his mind. The landlord he killed before they fled California. The rock he dropped on a car on the freeway. The guy he stabbed in a gas-station washroom as the others waited in the Lincoln.

With his doped-out ideas about doorways to other dimensions, Early is a mess and a highly dangerous one, a psychopath straight out of Brian’s thesis. And Brian, for all his claims to liberal understanding, is too dumb to see it. It’s absurd – they go out drinking together, good buddies, as their women talk like sisters. And all the time the viewer learns about attractions – between men, between women, between Adele and Early (‘Most of the time he treats me pretty good’), between killer and victim. The spell has to break, of course. Early kills someone right in front of their eyes and the rules are instantly changed. Out of the Lincoln’s windows go the liberal posturings. How can they rationalise the violently irrational, now that it is sitting in the back seat with a .45? As the ride to California becomes an excursion into madness, and random slaughter, they are thrust against the bleak underside of human nature with a force that no amount of hip intellectualising can have prepared them for…

production details
US | 117 minutes | 1993
Director: Dominic Sena
Script: Stephen Levy, Tim Metcalfe,

cast
Brad Pitt as Early Grayce
David Duchovny as Brian Kessler
Juliette Lewis as Adele Corners
Michelle Forbes as Carrie Laughlin
Sierra Pecheur as Mrs. Musgrave
John Dullaghan as Mr. Musgrave
Kathy Larson as Teenage Girl
David Milford as Driver
Judson Vaughn as Parole Officer
John Zarchen as Peter
David Rose as Eric
Loanne Bishop as Female Officer
Ron Kuhlman as Male Officer

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