Film

Don’t Miss the Chance to Catch ’94’s ‘River of Grass,’ Kelly Reichardt’s Stellar Debut

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A film of fizzy languor, Kelly Reichardt’s terrific 1994 debut feature, recently restored, tracks two lovers on the lam so inept that they can’t even make it past a tollbooth.

“I wondered if there was anyone in the world as lonely as me,” ponders Cozy (Lisa Bowman), a downcast mom of two kids, in voiceover. This resident of south Florida — Reichardt’s own home turf — will find a soul mate of sorts, Lee (Larry Fessenden, the snaggletoothed filmmaker and actor), in a bar in Broward County, the territory immediately to her north. Insisting that they go for a wee-hour dip in a stranger’s pool, shiftless charmer Lee promises adventure, a tonic for Cozy, who spends her days distractedly tipping Coke into her cherubic toddler’s bottle and improvising a gymnastics floor routine on her cruddy living-room carpet.

When a gun — property of Cozy’s jazz-drumming detective pop (Dick Russell, one of several perfectly cast nonprofessionals) — is fired during their swim, the two hide out in a $20-a-night pit, passing joints with their feet.

Reichardt pays clear homage to Breathless and Badlands, but her movie, the title of which is a local name for the Everglades, operates in its own ecosystem, teeming with the droll, shrewd observations about downwardly mobile life explored more solemnly in Reichardt’s next two films, Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy.

River of Grass

Written and directed by Kelly Reichardt

Oscilloscope Laboratories

IFC Center, March 11–17

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