Keanu Reeves, Crispin Glover, Daniel Roebuck, Dennis Hopper, Ione Skye
This film was written by Neal Jimenez, the writer/director of "The Waterdance." Of course, those who know me know "The Waterdance" is one of my favorite movies of all-time. I was a little bit surprised to find these two films written by the same author...they seemed, at first thought, a tremendous contrast in style and substance. After an additional viewing, it all made sense to me. Both films are MUCH more realistic than one is used to seeing in a movie theatre, and both have incredibly honest, courageous viewpoints. Simply, both films paint portraits of worlds we'd prefer to believe don't exist. What's most impressive is that these portraits aren't done from a place of judgment...we are allowed to live in the worlds, experience them and come away with our own experiences.
This film is based on the 1981 killing of Marcy Conrad in Miltipas, California by her boyfriend, Anthony Broussard. The killing was shocking not so much because it was a teen on teen killing...even in 1981, we were starting to get used to that idea. It was more surprising because Broussard ended up flaunting the killing to several of his friends, including showing his girlfriend's naked, lifeless body. "River's Edge" takes a powerful, unflinching look at the experiences of each of these individuals as they process what they have seen and what they know and how they assimilate the information into their lives.
Daniel Roebuck is marvelous as "Toilet," the young man who kills his girlfriend. You may remember Roebuck from "Nash Bridges" and when he portrayed Jay Leno on "The Late Shift." This film really broke out Crispin Glover...Of course, it may have contributed to his being mildly typecast as the quirky, offbeat and somewhat psycho loner. Glover is simply brilliant here...he is frightened, stupid and mesmerizing. This film also shows us how really wonderful Keanu Reeves can be...something I tend to forget...his scenes with Ione Skye, another wonderful surprise here, are simply tender, moving and beautifully brought to life. Dennis Hopper, as the lone "adult" in the equation, gives one of his stronger performances here. Under recognized, but equally powerful is Joshua Miller. The music, including Slayer, is magnificent for the film and director Tim Hunter gets kudos from bringing these fine individual performances into a cohesive unit. I'm floored this film wasn't even nominated for Oscars, of course, being made in 1986 the Academy wasn't nearly ready for this type of film. This sad truth aside, this film is filled with award worthy performances.
I will add one comment that is an observation for both films. Both have a tremendous streak of dark humor at times that some would consider offensive. In "The Waterdance," it is less offensive because the film itself primarily deals with adjusting to life in a wheelchair. So, it's a fairly safe topic. In "River's Edge," when we're dealing with murder, teens, societal values and topics such as these the potency is much higher. For me, the humor is not only realistic but essential to the films.
Back to Neil Jimenez...He has two fine, powerful and honest flicks to his credit...but, just to prove he's human he also penned Bette Midler's "For the Boys." Yikes!
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic