November 15, 2011
The 1990’s was a time when up and coming actors like Dermot Mulroney and Lili Taylor really came into their own, appearing in notable independent films like Living in Oblivion (1995) and The Addiction (1995) respectively. Some of these films connected with audiences and others, like Bright Angel (1990), did not. One of the staples of American indie films is the road movie. David Lynch’s Wild at Heart (1990) kick-started a whole trend of lovers on the run stories with the likes of Kalifornia (1993), True Romance (1993), and Love and a .45 (1994) to name but a few.
Adapted by Richard Ford from a collection of his own short stories, Bright Angel is a road movie about a young man from Montana by the name of George (Mulroney) who escapes from a troubled home with Lucy (Taylor), a girl who needs to go Wyoming and bail her brother out of jail. It’s pretty easy to see why George wants out. He lives out in the middle of nowhere farmland, USA with no real future prospects. His parents (Shepard and Perrine) don’t get along and actually split up early on in the film. He’s attracted to Lucy at first sight, drawn to her exotic looks and outgoing nature. It’s safe to say that she’s unlike any girl George has ever known. He sees her as his ticket out of a humdrum existence and a chance at a new life full of unpredictable turns that come largely in the form of colorful characters they meet on the way to Wyoming. There’s his aunt and her wheelchair-bound gun crazy husband (played with paranoid flair by Delroy Lindo) and a scuzzy criminal lowlife (a typically eccentric Bill Pullman).
Dermot Mulroney plays George as a soft-spoken guy trying to figure out what he wants in life. He has good chemistry with Lili Taylor and the growing attraction between their characters is believable. They complement each other – Lucy being George’s spontaneous side and he proves to her that not all guys are interested in her only for sex. She sports the big hair, black leather jacket look of a vintage 1980’s rock chick with the attitude to match. The film’s best scenes are between them as they get to know each other.
Director Michael Fields has a good eye for locations, setting much of the action in the same wide-open vistas as another road movie, Terrence Malick’s Badlands (1973). Like that film, Bright Angel immerses us in America’s heartland and how the environment shapes the attitudes of its inhabitants. This is one of those character-driven slice-of-life films that exist on the margins just waiting to be discovered and hopefully will with the release of this new DVD.