Going Their Own Way: Our Review of ‘Gasoline Rainbow’ on MUBI

Posted in What's Streaming? by - May 30, 2024
Going Their Own Way: Our Review of ‘Gasoline Rainbow’ on MUBI

“Things don’t go my own way ever,” says Nathaly Garza in Gasoline Rainbow, the Ross Brothers’ foray into American neo-neorealism. It’s easy to turn back when this happens, but she, along with the four other teens playing themselves, soldier on. Living within small town Oregon, a diverse group of teens embark on a road trip. On the way, they go onto billiard halls, the small town versions of the ones where I used to hang out. They eventually hit Portland, but a final destination in the form of a beach party awaits them.

It is easy to know what the Ross Brothers are going for as they depict the five teens’ misadventures. To their credit, they’re doing a lot of different things visually in Gasoline Rainbow where everything is visually extreme. We see the five teens either through tight closeups or as shadows within rural night time landscapes. The dialogue here feels much more consistent – the improv heavy dialogue reflects a natural way that these teens talk. The five teens’ distinct voices somehow fit within the works of the Ross Brothers, who mostly make documentary films.

The Ross Brothers, as well as their producer and casting director Lauren Cargo lucked out of these teens. Some of the close-ups on them reveal a brightness that comes with an optimism despite the backstories they have. Yes, Gasoline Rainbow gives these teens backstories, even some forward momentum as they make plans within their beach trip. Yes, I know that some films don’t need dialogue that sound staged, nor does it need any high stakes. I’m also happy that these kids were less insufferable than I was when I was at their age.

As I write all of those things above, Gasoline Rainbow still should have met some traditionalists in the middle. Give the characters enough actions that have consequences or give them some dialogue that requires a little staging. Also, I thought the whole point of naturalistic filmmaking is to capture different cadences of people on the street. These ‘country’ kids drive five hundred miles and meet adult city folk and both groups have similar ways of speaking. There’s something distracting about these characters’ uniformity even within a film within the dated subgenre of mumblecore.

None of the events feel like anything happened to these kids. The Ross Brothers also depict much of their third act in the kind of shakycam that got boring decades ago. The film touches on some aspects of these kids’ races, especially that of the fictional version of Makai Garza. There’s potential to dig deeper but it’s as if the film stops before it gets somewhere substantial. I also just felt bad for what the characters do to a piano that deserved a better fate.

Stream Gasoline Rainbow on MUBI.


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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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