Brian Kessler, a journalist researching serial killers, and his photographer girlfriend Carrie set out on a cross-country tour of the sites of the killings. Sharing the ride and their expenses are Early Grayce, a paroled white trash criminal, and his girlfriend Adele. As the trip progresses, Early begins to appear more and more unstable, and Brian and Carrie begin to fear that they may have a real-life killer in the back seat of their car. Written by
Scott Renshaw <email@example.com>
This is the second of two films in which Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis co-starred together and played a criminal couple. The first was the TV film Too Young to Die? (1990). They started dating while shooting "Too Young to Die?" in 1989, when Lewis was 16 years old and Pitt was 26. The relationship ended in 1993, shortly after "Kalifornia" was released. Director Dominic Sena didn't know that Lewis and Pitt were a couple when he cast them. He was looking for someone to play Adele when he saw Lewis in "Too Young to Die?", and immediately wanted her for his film. While searching for an actor to play Early Grayce, Sena noticed Pitt in "Thelma & Louise". See more »
We first see Early's pistol laying in a bag on the car's back seat. A closeup clearly shows it to be a parkerized U.S. military World War II M1911A1 (with commercial grip panels). But later, when Early and Brian are firing it at an abandoned building, Early says it's a Japanese pistol. See more »
I remember once going on a school trip to the top of the Empire State Building. When I looked down at the crowds of people on the street they looked like ants. I pulled out a penny and some of us started talking about what would happen if I dropped it from up there and it landed on someone's head. Of course I never crossed that line and actually dropped the penny. I don't think Early Grayce even knew there was a line to cross.
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It's a road movie, with a killer on-board. Brian Kessler (David Duchovny), a sophisticated, urbane writer, wants to conduct field research on American serial killers. But, neither he, nor his girlfriend, Carrie (Michelle Forbes), has the money for a cross-country tour of murder sites, so they advertise for someone to share travel expenses. Who they end up with is a young couple, Early Grayce (Brad Pitt) and his girlfriend, Adele (Juliette Lewis), two better examples of "poor white trash" you will never find in all of cinema.
Indeed, Early and Adele are what make this film so entertaining, as they babble, cackle, confide, muse, speculate, drool, and otherwise behave in ways I haven't seen since reruns of "The Beverly Hillbillies". Early's idea of California: "People think faster out there, on account of all that warm weather; cold weather makes people stupid". That's enough to convince Adele: "I guess that explains why there are so many stupid people around here". To which Early responds proudly: "It sure does". Early continues to instruct Adele about California: "You never have to buy no fruit, on account it's all on the trees ... and they ain't got no speed limits, and I hear your first month's rent is free, state law".
But poor Early has some, well, mental problems, which become ever more obvious to Brian and Carrie as the four travelers proceed west across the U.S. As they enter the desert Southwest, with its beautifully stark landscape, "Kalifornia" starts to look more and more like "The Hitcher" (1986), and Early starts to act more and more like John Ryder, everyone's maniacal hitchhiker, whose terror seemed so unstoppable.
In "Kalifornia", the acting is uneven. Duchovny's performance is flat. Brad Pitt is surprisingly effective, despite his overacting at times. Michelle Forbes is great as the avant-garde, photographic artist. But my choice for best performance goes to Juliette Lewis. With her nasal voice and heavy-duty Southern accent, she is stunning, as the naive, highly animated, child-like Adele.
Toward the end, the film takes on a Twilight Zone feel to it, as our travelers enter a Nevada nuclear test site with a dilapidated old house full of test mannequins. The plot dissolves rather messily into unnecessary and preposterous violence, an ending that was somewhat disappointing.
Overall, however, "Kalifornia" is an entertaining film, thanks to a clever concept, great scenery, especially in the second half, good cinematography, great dialogue, and that wonderful performance by Juliette Lewis.
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