Brad Pitt, David Duchovny, Michelle Forbes, and Juliette Lewis in Kalifornia (1993)


(director: Dominic Sena; screenwriters: Tim Metcalfe/from a story by Metcalfe & Stephen Levy; cinematographer: Bojan Bazelli; editor: Martin Hunter; music: Carter Burwell; cast: Brad Pitt (Early Grayce), David Duchovny (Brian Kessler), Michelle Forbes (Carrie Laughlin), Juliette Lewis (Adele Corners), Judson Vaughn (Parole Officer), Sierra Pecheur (Mrs Musgrave), Gregory Mars Martin (Walter Livesy); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Steve Golin/Aristides McGarry/Sigurjon Sighvatsson; MGM; 1993)

“It’s good-looking but unsubstantial.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Not only does this film misspell California, even if on purpose it still seems like an icky thing to do, but is too long and filled with too many annoying lead characters. It features an uninteresting and grating performances by Juliette Lewis as an unbelievable moronic, gullible and abused woman and a phony one by David Duchovny, as the smug bleeding-hearts liberal who gets his comeuppance. Middling director, formerly directing musical videos and commercials, Dominic Sena (“Gone in Sixty Seconds”/ “Swordfish”), never brings it to life as anything but schematic, shallow and pointless.

An economically struggling arty yuppie couple, erotic photographer Carrie Laughlin (Michelle Forbes) and her live-in lover Brian Kessler (David Duchovny), a staunch foe of the death penalty and a magazine writer who researched serial murders for an article just completed but is still obsessed with serial killers and opts to write a definitive coffee-table book on them with Carrie supplying the photos. They leave Pittsburgh to go cross-country in their Lincoln convertible and visit famous serial killer murder sites before going onto California where they plan to live so that they can get a fresh start. Brian puts up a notice on the university bulletin board asking for riders to share the expenses. The ad is answered by a poor white trash couple, the unemployed ex-convict Early Grayce (Brad Pitt) and his scatter-brained but good-hearted girlfriend Adele Corners (Juliette Lewis). Before leaving the state without permission from his parole officer, Early slays the landlord at his trailer camp and torches the place. As a string of murders occur during the journey, the yuppies learn that their rider is a homicidal psychopath and fight for their survival. Brian’s thoughts about there never being a justification for taking another’s life is put to the test, which I guess is the point of the movie.

Though the road movie was watchable, it never got over showing us its smugness and failed to rise to a juicy B-film thriller standard; it’s good-looking but unsubstantial. It was like a fancy car not performing as well it should have without the right fuel and driver. Tim Metcalfe wrote the story with Stephen Levy and Metcalfe did the screenplay.