Dennis Hopper stepped in at the last minute to helm this often overwrought family drama (he'd been away from the director's chair since the 1971 debacle The Last Movie), but his punch-drunk spontaneity is a good fit for material that, in other hands, could have been lurid and insufferable. Cebe (Manz, taking her hard-ass Days of Heaven persona into adolescence) is an emotionally damaged, punk-loving tomboy who spends her days railing against all manner of authority. Her mother (Farrell) is a nympho drug addict, and her father (Hopper) is a deadbeat who's just finished up a jail term for crashing his truck into a school bus full of children (we see truly frightening flashes of the accident throughout). And the tragedies don't stop there.
Hopper keeps things light and off-the-cuff, allowing his performers free rein---sometimes too much, as in the case of the screechy and shrill Farrell---to explore grim territory without falling into heavy-handedness. It's clear our young protagonist is on a predetermined path to self-destruction. The conceptually interesting climax aims to be an incendiary, '60s-hangover complement to the abrupt finale of Easy Rider, though---since the sequence hinges on a sloppy contrivance involving Wile E. Coyote's weapon of choice---it plays a bit too Looney Tunes. But there are still plenty of peripheral pleasures, especially a surreal interlude where Cebe runs off to the big city for an Alice in Wonderland--like adventure that includes a stolen car, a fourth-wall-breaking street performer and the Canadian punk-rock band the Pointed Sticks.
Watch the trailer