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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Gas Food Lodging (1992)

"It was decided then and there. I knew what was missing from my life—a man."
- Shade (Fairuza Balk)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: October 19, 2003

Stars: Brooke Adams, Ione Skye, Fairuza Balk
Other Stars: James Brolin, Robert Knepper, David Lansbury, Jacob Vargas, Donovan Leitch, Chris Mulkey, Laurie O'Brien, Julie Condra, Adam Biesk, Leigh Hamilton, Diane Behrens, J. Mascis
Director: Allison Anders

MPAA Rating: R for language and sensuality
Run Time: 01h:41m:13s
Release Date: September 23, 2003
UPC: 043396925397
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ BA-A- D+

DVD Review

Allison Anders directs her second feature with her screen adaptation of Richard Peck's novel, Don't Look and it Won't Hurt. While basically a "coming of age" film, Gas Food Lodging tells the story of a family of three women trying to deal with their lives in a small town.

Laramie, New Mexico doesn't have much to offer a single mother trying to raise two daughters. Nora Evans serves truckers at the local greasy spoon after being abandoned by her husband years ago. Her life is a lonely one, with only brief affairs with questionable men breaking the tedium, and she has yet to find someone she can rely on. Shade, the younger of her daughters, finds solace in the films playing at the local theater, where she lives her young romantic life vicariously through a Mexican screen star. Here is where she finds the inspiration to try to change the situation she finds herself in, by secretly searching for her father, hoping that his return could fix the growing tension that threatens to tear her family apart. Her seventeen-year-old sister, Trudie, has a reputation as the town slut. She too is looking for something that can make her life worthwhile, and believes she has found it in a geologist who arrives from out of town, but when she winds up pregnant and the father has vanished, her volatile relationship with her mother will come to a head.

Gas Food Lodging is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, it provides a showcase for a very young Fairuza Balk, who won an Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead for her portrayal of wide-eyed innocence and hopeless longing for a better family life conflicting with the reality of the situation around her. Brooke Adams and Ione Skye turn in above average performances as well, and when given a chance, the dialogue and interaction between the women is very good, and is really the strength of the film.

However, the impact of these performances is often undermined by a script that doesn't quite seem to know what it wants to do, and spends too much time on support characters and side plots that really don't add substance. While I can accept that a small town may have some interesting characters, this one seems to have an abundance of stereotypes, some for show, some to hammer home the morals of the principal characters. An already fairly predictable story is forced along by a few too many coincidental events, which lessen its credibility. The cinematography holds up very well, capturing the atmosphere succinctly, but I found the overuse of the main musical cue annoying after its umpteenth return. None of these failings is necesarily fatal, and if these issues can be overlooked, Gas Food Lodging provides an interesting, if not overly realistic, slice of life.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Gas Food Lodging is presented in a new high-definition anamorphic widescreen transfer. Overall the image quality is very good, with well saturated colors and solid blacks. The source print is relatively free of defects, the look on the soft side, and grain structure is rendered well. Contrast seems a little harsh in places, obscuring low level detail, but I suspect this is intentional. No compression problems were evident. This looks like an accurate representation.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The two-channel surround track presented here is clean, with no technical abnormalities. The soundtrack is sparse, and primarily dialogue, which is easily discernable.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Big Girls Don't Cry, Cruel Intentions, The Craft, The Last Picture Show
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Extras are limited to trailers for Big Girls Don't Cry, Cruel Intentions, The Craft, and The Last Picture Show.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Heralded by others for its brilliance, I found Gas Food Lodging to be an uneven affair. However, for fans of the film, Columbia has provided a decent transfer, and for those unfamiliar with it, it is recommended for Balk's performance alone.


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