Running on Empty
Time Out saysGrowing up is hard, but the difficulties are compounded for 17-year-old Danny Pope (Phoenix) by the fact that Mom and Dad (Lahti and Hirsch) are still on the run years after their engagement in terrorist action against America's napalm bombing raids on Vietnam. Danny merely wants to come to terms with school, girls, and his talent as a musician, but the Popes' record forces them into a nomadic life spent in rented rooms in various towns. This is a rites of passage movie with a difference, in that it's politically intelligent and never crass. Danny's relationships, with family, girlfriend (Plimpton) and teachers are sensitively handled, while the film's attitude towards the value of radical commitment balanced against individual pain is gently probing. Both acting (particularly Phoenix) and characterisation are top-notch. A film about lives indelibly marked by the past, and by the lies we tell each other just to protect ourselves, it displays the narrative sophistication and ironic grasp of moral and emotional nuances characteristic of Lumet's best work.