Sunday, April 30, 2006

R.I.P. River Phoenix

Running on Empty is about a family of fugitives on the run. Chrtistine Lahti and Judd Hirsch play Annie and Arthur Pope, antiwar activists who blew up a napalm lab at the University of Massachusets in the early 1970s. They have managed to escape the law by changing locations and identities while dragging their sons along with them. They move about evey six months, lie to the schools about the kids' records, get clothes from lost and founds, and change license plates on stolen cars. When Aruthur Pope goes to a source to get their new identities, she tells him that his mother died a month ago from cancer, but he was too hard to reach. They have sacrificed their entire lives to avoid getting caught by the FBI. River Phoenix plays their older son Danny, and when he meets a girl he wants to stop running from something that he had no control over. He is at the age when he should be applying to colleges, but because of their lifestyle he is unable to. He finally tells Lorna, the girl, about his family's history and she convinces him to talk to his parents. Danny is a talented piano player and his music teacher, who is also Lorna's father, convinces him to apply to Julliard. He ends up applying behind his parents back and is accepted to the prestigious academy. His father says that he cannot go to college for fear that they will be found out. However, his mother goes to her own father and asks him to care for Danny so that he can lead a normal life. Danny has to make a difficult decision, live a life for himself, or be separated from his family forever. In the end, his parents give him the freedom to choose for himself, and he decides to go to college. They want him to be able to have his own life and do with it as he pleases.

This film is a political commentary about the Vietnam war and the many people who protested it. In one part of the film an old friend comes to visit the Popes and tries to get Arthur to rob a bank. He calls his children down and shows them the guns that his friend has and tells them that violence is not what they are about. They were simply trying to protest something that they disagreed with. The friend ends up robbing the bank and getting killed, but not before jeopardizing the Popes' identity. They have to move on and leave Danny behind to start a life fot himself.

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