River's Edge review by Matt Fuerst


Life is full of the "big questions". What is happiness and how can I find it? Why am I so funny looking? Why was growing up so tough for me? Why didn't my parents love me? All that sort of good stuff that undoubtedly reverberates around the backside of peoples skulls once and a while. And as far as I can tell, you can break people out into two categories: those that ponder the "big questions" a lot, and those that don't. I firmly have both feet set in the "not very often" camp, but I have bumped across the "big thinkers" more than my fair share in my travels. I generally just chalk these people up as having too much time on their hands if they can ponder and torture themselves with questions that have no real answers, but I think it does go deeper than that. There really must be a different set of chemicals floating around their cerebellum to worry about such things so often. Anyway, River's Edge presents us with a group of teenagers who definitely don't spend much time worrying about the meaning of life, hell they aren't worrying about much at all aside from where their next score of weed is coming from...

River's Edge starts with John (Daniel Roebuck) who has just killed his girlfriend by the side of the river. John's got a screw or two loose, so he stops by the store for some beer and heads to high school to tell his friends about his deed. Everyone is pretty skeptical of the claims until the whole crew rides out to the river's edge to in fact see the corpse still laying there stark naked. Everyone in the movie seems to be a practicing nihilist, so the reactions are pretty calm and uneventful. Layne (the always enjoyable Crispin Hellion Glover) takes charge of the situation and has everyone promise secrecy and begins formulating plans for hiding John and getting rid of the body. What's important in this scene, and really in almost everything that transpires in the movie is the total lack of emotion. No one is particularly upset with their friend lying there dead, no one is particularly upset with John, their friend, now being a cold blooded murderer. Return to business as usual, going back to school (in spite of not caring about it) and deadbeat homes filled with deadbeat, non-caring parents.

Matt (Keanu Reeves) ends up breaking down and calling the police, but he's as emotionally void as the rest of the movie, hardly your typical protagonist. Layne continues to try to stay ahead of police, driving his beat up, heavily modded Volkswagen Bug around town for no particularly reason, accomplishing absolutely nothing. The police are pretty inept at their job, and harass Matt for reporting the crime more than trying to actually going about solving it. Along the way here are subplots involving Matt's demonic little brother running away from home and Feck (Dennis Hopper) the local drug dealer. Feck is actually a pretty interesting character and really the highlight of River's Edge. Feck lives in a run down dump on the outskirts of town, and Matt appears to be his only real friend. Feck claims to have once killed a woman himself, and keeps a life sized female doll by his sides at all times.

The movie eventually reaches it's conclusion, which isn't really that important by the time it arrives. Instead, what I was wondering was: what does it all mean? No one in this movie seems to have an ounce of compassion, remorse or anything you could generalize as "feeling" in their bodies. What is this supposed to tell us? Are we lamenting over a lost generation of children, is the message just that plain and in our face? Or was River's Edge a bigger statement? Maybe something to do with the general feeling that society lost touch with itself during the 80's, the decade of greed and "Bigger is Better"? I guess my problem is that, much like the big questions in life, I wasn't really interested in wondering about the questions in River's Edge either.

That makes me sound pretty dense, and in some ways that's a valid assessment. I'm pretty dense when it comes lifes big questions, but I'm willing to stop a moment and be reflective when it comes to a movie on occasion. I've scratched my head on this one and I'm just not what sure what we're supposed to come away with. And without these questions, I wonder what exactly we were supposed to take away from River's Edge.

Alright, all ranting and questions aside, River's Edge is pretty fun to watch. Glover is Glover, and man what a weird freak that guy is. The flick is shot very well and highlights the moods of the story. Still, it's a tough pitch as it stands...

4 out of 10 Jackasses
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