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a home + living guide for the post-college, pre-parenthood, quasi-adult generation

03.08.2001

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flick pick | Freeway 1996
Directed + written by: John Waters
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Kiefer Sutherland
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under:
drama
Watch it when youíre in the mood for
something: darkly comic, disturbing, hip 
The verdict: 1/2/ 5 the rating system explained

Plot synopsis In this twisted, contemporary trailer-park version of the little Red Riding Hood fairy tale, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Lutz heads for the road after her horrible hooker mom and child-molesting, crackhead stepfather are both dragged away by the cops one afternoon. Vanessaís decided that this time, thereís no way sheís going to let child services put her into some foster home, and so off she goes in search of her grandmother, whom sheís never met before. Unfortunately, her car breaks down just as she gets on the freeway. Sheís picked up by a quiet, seemingly kind and respectable youth counselor named Bob Wolverton, who slowly coaxes Vanessa to open up to him. But as the journey continues, Vanessa begins to suspect that her newfound friend is actually the infamous I-5 serial killer, and that sheís just become his next target.

Review There are no real people in Freeway, only stereotypes of people, which is just fine, since Freeway announces itself from the very opening Ė a creepy, lurid cartoon credit sequence with a sexy red riding hood and leering big bad wolf -- as a surreal and gritty fable, an extended metaphor of real life rather than a slice of life itself. Whatís interesting about this version of the tale is that our Red Riding Hood isnít some naÔve little girl that screams and flees in the fact of danger, but the amazing Reese Witherspoon, whose pre-possessed Vanessa is the perfect contemporary heroine, breezily charming, common-sense smart and unwilling to take crap from anyone, no matter how hard they try to make her feel like trash. And in this story, the big bad wolf she battles isnít Bob, the serial killer (perfectly cast in the form of Kiefer Sutherland), so much as what Bob represents Ė a condescending upper-middle-class yuppie society that likes to affirm its perceived superiority by reaching down to help out those less "fortunate," even while it pretends that itís not fascinated by the darkness and violence that "nice people" arenít supposed to know about. The social commentary and satire, brilliantly brought out during the portion of the film that takes place on the freeway, does get a little muddled as plot matters start taking over, but for the most part, this is one disturbingly funny film, full of unsettling twists and turns, an inventive, entertaining road trip thatíll make you think.
 
ó reviewed by Yee-Fan Sun 

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