Film Greats: Tim Hunter’s ‘River’s Edge’ (1986)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Edwin Pereyra, Apr 30, 2002.

  1. Edwin Pereyra

    Edwin Pereyra Producer

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    In the true spirit of this series, Tim Hunter’s River’s Edge comes as a recommendation from one of the Forum members that would fit the running description of this series.
    River’s Edge is based on a true story about a high school boy who kills his girlfriend. He then tells about it to his circle of friends but no one seems to do the right thing and report the incident to the authorities. Among others, the film stars Keanu Reeves as Matt, Dennis Hopper as the eccentric Feck whose main companion is a blowup doll and Crispin Glover as Layne. This is a film about alienated kids from broken homes who spend most of their time getting stoned, drinking beer and having sex. These eccentric and colorful characters become all the more chilling because of some well-delivered performances by its cast.
    The film, however, left me a little indifferent and I attribute that to the lack of fully developed characters. Boys Don’t Cry and Bully, for the most part, touched on the same themes but these two films were more powerful and made for a more compelling character study. The narrative benefits from the characters’ behavior as each person’s actions are explained, even though the characters themselves may be less than moral.
    Crispin Glover’s performance was so over the top that after a while, it was hard to take his character seriously. It becomes an exercise in hilarity. But director Tim Hunter is very cautious in making this comical or even a satire as he certainly wants us to take the film seriously. So in the end, I was left asking, “What was the point of this whole exercise?” Certainly, it was not to educate, enlighten, inspire, nor to entertain – the reasons why I go to see a film. If River’s Edge does have a message beyond the obvious commentary on social depravity and moral bankruptcy, it is that there is still hope for some dysfunctional kids and that doing the right thing is always the best.
    But to get there Tim Hunter paints a bleak picture of a poor American society of disrespectful kids, where a mother is more worried that her son is stealing pot from her rather than setting good examples and raising them right, where a 12-year old child is bent on killing his older brother and where losing at a video game creates more of a sense of loss than a death of a fellow friend. This society of disillusioned youth and false allegiances that the filmmakers paint, while realistically may have existed in the early 1980’s (and even today), is also one that was not prevalent and an exception, for the most part. To that end, the resulting film offers very few redeeming qualities most especially in its storyline and themes and contains very little positive attributes to cling on to.
    Certainly a film such as River’s Edge can be polarizing and I would like to hear from those who have seen the film.
    Tino? [​IMG]
    - - -
    Film Greats – A continuing quick look at motion pictures that, in one way or another, have been called “great films” by some. Other Films In This Series: Federico Fellini’s Nights Of Cabiria : John Badham’s WarGames : John Frankenheimer’s The Train
    ~Edwin
     
  2. Tino

    Tino Lead Actor
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    As the aforementioned forum member who recommended this film to Edwin, I stand by my opinion that The Rivers Edge is a "great" film.
    A powerful study of disillusioned alienated youth with little redeeming qualities. The brutal murder of one of their friends by another is treated as casually as finding a dead animal by the side of the road. Chilling.
    The performances in this film were top notch, especially from a young Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper and yes, Crispin Glover whose performance suited his character perfectly.
    The bleakness of this film and it's unpleasant tone may turn some people off, but IMO, it was a disturbing, moving, well written and directed, effective and ultimately brave portrayal of lost souls which didn't pull any punches by trying to add levity or false nobility to its characters.
    Films, IMO, can be great without being "entertaining" such as Schindler's List, Boy's Don't Cry, Kids, just to mention a few. The Rivers Edge fits into this category.
    I'm also curious to hear others opinions as I told Edwin that this film is/was a "great" film.
    What say you all? Yay or Nay?[​IMG]
     
  3. Chris Lynch

    Chris Lynch Stunt Coordinator

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    Well, this may sound weird, but the film came across to me as a (very) dark comedy. Otherwise, I agree: chilling and frightening. Glover's performance was the linchpin to hold the weirdness together.

    Haven't seen this in awhile, time to watch it again.
     
  4. Tino

    Tino Lead Actor
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    Come on. Hasn't anyone else seen this great film? I told Edwin that if he watched this film and started a thread about it, it would get a lot of polarizing replies.
    You guys are makin' me look bad. A little help.....[​IMG]
     
  5. MatS

    MatS Screenwriter

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    a great film for its time, not sure how it holds up today, haven't seen it in a long while
     
  6. Jon Sheedy

    Jon Sheedy Stunt Coordinator

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    The River's Edge is indeed an exceptional film and one that I was very excited about being able to add to my DVD collection.

    I believe that it's been very inspirational to other directors since it's release in 1986, especially the aforementioned Larry Clark. I agree that several of the performances are over the top...but this whole film is over the top.

    These characters are so twisted and manic it's hard not to laugh, but in the end when you think of it, you won't think it very funny.

     
  7. Vickie_M

    Vickie_M Producer

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    I remember reading about the actual case that the movie was inspired by and it gave me nightmares. For a short time in high school I hung out with people something like those kids in the movie and could put the faces of the people I knew onto those people as I read the story. SHUDDER! In the years after I quit hanging out with them, one of the guys was murdered in a drug deal, one committed suicide by driving his car into a moving train and one was sent to prison for murdering an elderly lady for a few bucks...oh my god. And those are just the ones I heard about, lord knows what happened to some of the others. Luckily, besides doing drugs, I never participated in or knew about any crimes they did while I was part of the group.

    When the movie came out all my friends went to see it at the Drive-In. I wanted to see it too but couldn't bring myself to face those old ghosts again. To be honest, I only saw it for the first time a few years ago. It still hit me pretty hard, and I didn't even know any of the real people involved. It was very powerful to me, but I can't say if it's the movie as much as my horrific high school friends.

    Scary story, chilling movie.

     
  8. Edwin Pereyra

    Edwin Pereyra Producer

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