The thought of a venturesome set of runaway 14-year-old fraternal twin sisters taking refuge on a military base, of all places, sounds potentially lurid.
Remarkably, feature-debuting filmmaker Mo Ogrodnik has taken this highly charged circumstance and turned it into "Ripe," a compelling fable of all-American sex and violence, death and desire.
When the father of twins Violet (Monica Keena) and Rosie (Daisy Eagan) strikes a deer while driving down a forest road, he loses control of his car, which hits a tree and bursts into flames. The twins escape, but their parents die.
We're left to assume that their mother was totally ineffectual because they do not grieve her loss. Their father, on the other hand, was a monster not above pointing a rifle at his terrified daughters. Rosie sells Violet on a dream of their running off to some vague paradise in Kentucky.
Along the way, hungry and tired, they wind up at a derelict military base somewhere in the South, given shelter by the base's newly hired groundskeeper, Pete (Gordon Currie).
Ogrodnik manages to come up with a reason for Pete to let them stay with him in his shack, and he even passes them off to the base's commanding officer as his nieces. Even so Pete, though likable, is not exactly strong on good judgment; he in fact has already let himself be seduced by the commander's bored wife (Karen Lynn Gorney, John Travolta's leading lady in "Saturday Night Fever").
Complicating matters greatly is that Rosie is in love with her beautiful sister, who is experiencing mutual attraction with Pete, a sexy, long-haired vegetarian who offers a contrast to the soldiers.
Ogrodnik pulls us deeply into this most volatile of situations to convey just how powerful the onslaught of sex and emotion can be on girls of such troubled background. She makes this point with considerable daring and imagination and with formidable portrayals from her two young stars.
* Unrated. Times guidelines: The film has strong violence, underage sexuality, strong language and is for mature audiences.
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Monica Keena: Violet
Daisy Eagan: Rosie
Gordon Currie: Pete Birdie
Ron Brice: Ken
A Trimark presentation of a C&P Production. Writer-director Mo Ogrodnik. Producers Suzy Landa, Tom Razzano. Executive producers Patrick Panzarella, Michael Chambers. Cinematographer Wolfgang Held. Editor Sarah Durham. Music Anton Sanko. Production designer Sally Petersen. Art director Hannah Moseley. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.
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