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SXSW 2024: Roleplay, Gasoline Rainbow, Grand Theft Hamlet | Festivals & Awards

March 11, 2024 - Movies

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There’s a similar “act of listening to young people” angle to the latest project from the form-breaking geniuses known as the Ross brothers. The directors of “Western,” “Contemporary Color,” and “Bloody Noses, Empty Pockets” are back with a film that once again defies categorization in a fascinating way. Like their last project, a purist might argue that “Gasoline Rainbow” isn’t a doc. Five young people who didn’t know each other were “cast” as friends who decide to go on a road trip to the coast because they’ve never seen the ocean. That’s it. They clearly weren’t given dialogue or ground rules. So what unfolds is pure. It’s them in their encounters, emotions, anxieties, and desires.

A lot of the runtime of “Gasoline Rainbow” consists of driving, listening to music, and getting high, which could make it a tough sell for some viewers, but I found the window into young life in the 2020s consistently fascinating. Even when they’re doing nothing, these kids are alive. There’s energy in their voices and the motion that reminded me of that feeling when you’re young that anything is possible. I worry that young people today have lost the inherent optimism of youth, reminded by the internet on a daily basis of some of the horror of the world they will have to face. And “Gasoline Rainbow” doesn’t ignore the issues, but kids don’t sit around talking about climate change or how they’ll pay the rent. They get high. They drive. They listen to the “Lord of the Rings” soundtrack. And they want to see the ocean.

The Ross brothers are organic, brilliant filmmakers, people who know how to capture their subjects without getting in their way. Again, traditionalists, or even those looking for more structure, will be turned off by a film that admittedly feels a bit repetitive and long. But that’s life for young people, right? Days that feel the same and a long road ahead of them. There’s a phenomenal exchange in the film that’s almost a throwaway that captures what it’s all about for me. “Where the fuck are we at?” “I have no clue, man—just follow the road.” These kids are just following the road, and we’re lucky to be along for the ride.

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