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Running on Empty

Running on Empty(1988)

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  • running on empty

    • kevin sellers
    • 2/8/16

    Haven't seen it since it first came out in '88, and I was surprised by how fresh and genuinely affecting it still is. Naomi Foner's screenplay deservedly was nominated for an Oscar. Through her depiction of the Pope family we get both a mournful paean to the radical 60s, as well as a searching examination of wasted lives. Particularly poignant, in light of these themes, is the scene between Christine Lahti, playing a piano prodigy WASP turned fugitive, and her establishment dad (played perfectly by veteran Lumet actor, Steven Hill.) When he asks her "My God, why diid you throw it all away?" Lahti's expression of utter forlorn-ness at the question caused this viewer to tear up, and that sure doesn't happen very often. Also good, as other reviewers have noted, are the scenes between River Phoenix, playing the eldest son who must separate from his parents, and his girlfriend (a sulky and aggressive Martha Plimpton, who provides a nice contrast to Phoenix's politeness.) Lahti, as alluded to above, is wonderful, as always, and even Judd Hirsch, whom I normally do not like, prone as I feel he is to overacting, is convincing as the dad who is dogmatic and reverse snobbish, traits that make good use of Hirsch's over the top delivery. A couple critics have knocked Sideny Lumet's direction as "lazy," whatever that means. This film is certainly quieter than movies like "Serpico" and "Dog Day Afternoon," but it is well paced and there are no scenes that drag, in my opinion. There are a couple which are a bit hokey, though, like the birthday party where everyone dances to James Taylor and the last scene where Hirsch too suddenly decides to let Phoenix go. So, let's give this movie an A minus. P.S. Given the title, I'm shocked that Jackson Browne didn't score it.

  • Running on Empty

    • Ann
    • 3/15/15

    I thought this was a fine film. I was very glad when it appeared on the TCM schedule inasmuch as I'd missed it when originally released, and had meant to see it. Did anyone, apart from me, notice that the profanity was edited out of the print shown? How odd! I hope if the movie plays again, TCM will be able to find an uncensored print.

  • act in haste, repent at leisure

    • don letta
    • 2/26/15

    This a heartbreaking story of family values in conflict with political allegiances. The performances are spot on, with River Phoenix proving he was a talent to recon with. His loss at such an early age is all the sadder, after watching this film. A true document of '80's payback for '60's political activism.

  • Love, LOVE this movie!

    • Jonia
    • 2/24/15

    Found it years ago and have recommended it to friends ever since. It's an unknown gem, surprising and lovely. Don't miss it!

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