Movies, Reviews

Two Lane Blacktop

01.11.08 | Comment?

Saw Two Lane Blacktop over the New Year’s holiday. It’s the story of two drifters who take their souped-up ’55 Chevy from town to town, drag racing when they can find a taker. Essentially they’re hustlers.

Along the way they hook up with a young woman who’s hitching around the country more or less at random. Later they meet a middle aged man, who picks up hitchhikers so he can have someone to talk to, and end up challenging him to a cross-country race.

Like the movie The Driver, the main characters are given labels instead of names, based on what they do (The Driver, The Mechanic), what they are (The Girl), or what they drive (GTO). Their backstories are nonexistent, and it’s clearly on purpose. When GTO starts to spill his guts, The Driver interrupts with a curt, “I don’t want to hear it.”

This movie is sort of the anti-Vanishing Point. Whereas that movie said that the open road is America, man, and you can meet a lot of interesting people there, this movie says that the road is barren, a wasteland.

In his review, Roger Ebert points out that this movie is about people who make the road their home. To them, the road is their destination, not just a path to somewhere else.

I thought the movie was very disappointing, though. If you’re making a character study, you’d think that the people in it would be interesting. Instead only Warren Oates, as GTO, really does anything (to be fair, his part is the best). In a way he and the others become friends, but it’s a fragile thing and in the end just sort of dissolves.

Plus the movie is boring in places, something I have a hard time forgiving.

Oddly enough, Slate just ran a retrospective on the movie. There were many great movies made in the 70s; I have a hard time putting this one among their number.

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