Gas, Food Lodging [1992]

American independent director Allison Anders made her name with this keenly observed tale of a single mother and her two daughters stuck in the truck-stop town of Laramie, New Mexico, barely a fly speck on the never-ending desert horizon. Ione Skye and Fairuza Balk star as sisters Trudi and Shade, who couldn't be more different. Trudi rebels against her mother and her soul-numbing life through sex and develops a reputation among the boys for being easy. Shade is the "good girl" who escapes through the overripe Mexican melodramas in the town's largely vacant theater. Brooke Adams, a loving mother hardened by rejection and a demanding job as a truck-stop waitress, tries to hide her loneliness and disappointment and set Trudi on a better path, but as with so many relationships in this film, conflict brings out the worst in them. Anders, a single mother herself, drew on her own experiences to enrich her adaptation of Richard Peck's novel Don't Look and It Won't Hurt, and she brings a haggard understanding to the strained relations between mother and daughter and the bleak desolation to the lives of three women trapped by circumstance, economics, and landscape, but she also reaches deep into the characters to expose their yearnings and steel their resolve. No knight in shining armor for these women, but Anders allows them to make their way through the emotional landscape with pluck and determination. --Sean Axmaker

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