de facto film reviews 2 stars

Gasoline Rainbowsis a confused film. As with so many recent indy films, the movie believes it is more important than it is, and deeper, more profound. Concerning five kids from a small town in Oregon, who decide to take a road trip immediately following their graduation from high school, this meandering work did little to impress this viewer. The style of the film appears to be a cross between mumblecore and verité, with the actors-as such-playing characters that not only share their names but much of what passes for personality. Is this reality tv as film? No, because that would be interesting in a trash way, and this is simply boring and annoying.

Endless scenes of pretentious monologuing, kids who fear responsibility and lots and lots of the use of the word “fuck” as though it is edgy, as well as weed, weed and weed. This is a stoner film, in a sense, but it is not funny, like a Cheech and Chong film, nor is it meaningful, like an Easy Rider, a film with its own set of problems but that at least had a thesis. This film cannot find a central plot or character motivation in nearly two hours run time.

Gasoline Rainbow (2023)

Courtesy Mubi Films

Instead, it is a series of events, of the kids wandering down the highway, meeting people, losing their way and discovering that, maybe, they have each other, but maybe not. A metaphor for life? Yes, if you are fifteen years old and just discovered Kerouac. The film is not in need of better photography, but it is in need of a script and a director-this one has a pair-who either let the experiment of “almost reality” play out or who can sculpt the work into a worthwhile endeavor.

There are moments the film feels like it could become something special, like when-spoilers-the kids discover their van has been disabled and they must walk the rest of the way. This could have become a modern Boxcar Bertha, but instead it wastes that potential, and jettisons two new characters just as they begin to grow interesting. This happens again, when they meet another, older traveler, who is now on the west coast after spending a decade and a half in New Jersey. Connections come and go without much rhyme or reason, and this is but one disappointing aspect of the film.

Gasoline Rainbow (2023)

Courtesy Mubi

For people who are supposed to have grown up together, you do not get a real sense of camaraderie. What transpires does appear, on the surface, to be a group of people who know and trust one another, but you never really get any depth about this. Why do they stay together and what did they go through to bond them so tightly? The answers, as given, are not satisfactory, because the film is all tell and very little show.

This is not a film without merit. It is a film that is all about “good vibes” and showing togetherness. There is a positivity to the film, among the bleakness, but there is also something missing, something which could transform this from a merely decent film into a very good one. That element may just be assurance and, frankly, not taking your work, and yourself, so seriously. Maybe the kids needed to be allowed to have fun, that did not always resort to endless drug use. Sometimes kids are stupid without the aid of substances.

GASOLINE RAINBOW is now playing in limited theaters