With four features in the past six years, Gregg Araki has established himself as one of America's most gifted and provocative filmmakers, chronicling the lives of young people sometimes uncertain of their sexual orientation, most always unsure of what to do with their lives.
"Totally F***ed Up" tackled teen suicide head-on and, before that, "The Living End" found two very different HIV-positive young men working out a relationship while on the road.
In each of these films Araki was ahead of the pack. But "The Doom Generation" finds him for the first time following it. It has Araki's edge and energy, his terse mastery of the visual, his deadpan humor and despair, and his ability to inspire go-for-broke portrayals--all to the accompaniment of a dynamite, bleak, driving score featuring a slough of numbers from the best current groups.
But Araki's distinctive, no-holds-barred personality cannot mask its over-familiarity or compensate for its overwhelming violence. "The Doom Generation" plays like a low-budget "Natural Born Killers"--and that is not intended as a compliment.
Against a collage of pop art landscapes (Jim Fealy is Araki's formidable cinematographer), a teen-age couple--foul-mouthed, sarcastic Amy (Rose McGowan) and dim, sweet-natured Jordan (James Duval)--hit the road. There they take lots of drugs and cross paths with virile, insinuating, dominating Xavier (Johnathon Schaech), who swiftly seduces Amy and commences moving in on Jordan as well.
What ensues is the usual odyssey of cheap motels, fast-food joints, convenience stores--each site marked by portentous slogans. Petty and not-so-petty crime ensues, but the evolving menage a trois is on a collision course with society's darkest, most intolerant forces of sexual violence.
Araki takes us to an authentically scary place, but he's traveled over a road that we've been over too many times before to make a point that has also been made before, although perhaps not quite so terrifyingly. "The Doom Generation" leaves you feeling that he can't get back to his "no-budget" style fast enough.
* Unrated. Times guidelines: The film has much strong language, violence and sexuality, and the Nuart is admitting no one under 17 without an adult.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
'The Doom Generation'
James Duval: Jordan White
Rose McGowan: Amy Blue
Johnathon Schaech: Xavier Red
A TriMark release of a UCG-Teen Angst Movie Company presentation in association with Desperate Pictures, Blurco and Why Not Productions (France). Writer-director-editor Gregg Araki. Executive producers Nicole Arbib, Pascal Caucheteux & Gregoire Sorlat. Producer for UGC Yves Marmion. Cinematographer Jim Fealy. Costumes Catherine Cooper-Thoman. Production designer Therese Deprez. Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes.
* Exclusively at the Nuart, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 478-6379.