A group of teenagers set off on a post-graduation road trip in Bill and Turner Ross's latest feature, billed as their first fiction.
Bill and Turner Ross have been steadily making a name for themselves on the American independent film circuit for some time now, but it’s fair to say that their breakout moment came in 2020 with Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets – a freewheeling fly-on-the-wall observation about the final night of business in a Las Vegas dive bar. The bar, in actuality, was not a real place, but the non-professional actors and provided liquor certainly were, creating an intimate, booze-sodden glimpse into middle America and the beauty of barfly life. They make their official foray into fiction filmmaking with Gasoline Rainbow, which follows a group of newly minted high school graduates as they set off on a road trip in search of “the party at the end of the world”.
The five friends (Tony Abuerto, Micah Bunch, Nichole Dukes, Nathaly Garcia, Makai Garza, all credited as “themselves”) leave their tiny town in Oregon and head for the Pacific coast, piled into a van with only a rucksack each and a killer playlist to see them through. Along the way, they befriend strangers who openly embrace them, and when the journey gets tough, a helping hand is never far.
Filmed in what has become the Ross Brothers’ signature lo-fi style, with camera phone and handheld footage incorporated into the mix, it’s a fly-on-the-wall take on teenage wanderlust, and the lack of strict script leaves room for the cast to fill in the gaps, creating a more authentic portrait of contemporary youth. But with five central characters and a mix of supporting players in contention, it’s difficult to really feel a strong connection with the group, and the film’s abundance of wide shots only increases this sense of distance.
That said, the film definitely isn’t without its charms. One scene where the group end up staying on a houseboat outside of Portland with a couple of friendly punks is particularly delightful; in the morning one of the hosts pops Howard Shore’s ‘The Shire’ on the speakers as he cooks breakfast, telling the gang, “I feel like Tom Bombadil” as he cuts up apples.
It’s a meandering take on middle America, but the journey never feels too long. It just feels a little familiar, even with the Ross Brothers’ knack for giving people space to perform in ways that don’t feel like performances. Despite its affable, everyman protagonists and excellent title, Gasoline Rainbow lacks the staying power of their previous feature, and feels more of a continuation than an evolution or expansion of style.
Published 7 Sep 2023
Last call for drinks in this liquor-lashed celebration of American bar culture from Bill and Turner Ross.
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