Sunday, Aug. 15, 2010

Kalifornia Dreaming

By David Luhrssen
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When a writer and photographer set forth on an expedition to document the places associated with America’s most notorious serial killers, they never imagined that the man responding to their rideshare posting would turn out to be a serial murderer. That’s one of the ironic twists in the gripping 1993 thriller Kalifornia (out now on a Blu-ray/DVD set with an extended version), along with the idea of California as the last place where life can begin again. The West Coast was the destination for the boyfriend-girlfriend couple, escaping from their urban hipster dead end and dreaming of a bestselling book.



Kalifornia stars a then rising Brad Pitt as the stranger who responds to their rideshare. Early is a wild-eyed redneck lunatic under his Confederate tractor hat. With his infantile but well-meaning girlfriend (Juliette Lewis) in tow, he tags along with writer Brian (mild-faced David Duchovny) and photographer Carrie (Michelle Forbes in a sexy Louise Brooks bob). It’s a study of America’s class divide as well as the meaning of evil. Signals of Early’s distorted behavior mount; Carrie catches on soon enough but Brian, filled with naive ideals, can’t see it coming.


The unanswered question of why haunts the film. It’s not possible to determine how Early became what he is, although symptoms of his state of mind include utter lack of remorse, no recognition of limits and a refusal to act in any way but on impulse. He is a rattletrap car without breaks, gathering speed on a downhill slide. It’s one of Brad Pitt’s best roles.

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