Kalifornia is about a university graduate of psychology and journalism and an aspiring writer as well, Brian Kessler (David Duchovny). Brian recently secured a deal to write a book about serial killers after he published a magazine article of some repute, and with his girlfriend Carrie Laughlin (Michelle Forbes) chomping at the bit to leave Pennsylvania, Brian concocts a scheme that will hopefully kill two birds with one stone. They'll drive cross country visiting murder sites along the way, Carrie will take the pictures, seeing as she's a photographer and Brian will write the book on their way to California. It's a win-win, only they don't have enough money to complete the journey by themselves so they post an ad at their university for a share-ride deal, enter Early Grayce (Brad Pitt) Adele Corners (Juliette Lewis).
Early and Adele are exactly the sort of white trash rubes that Brian and Carrie would ordinarily never associate themselves with. Early slowly reveals himself to be domineering, bellicose and slovenly, and Adele is naive, slow-witted and somewhat innocent. What's interesting is how the two couples interact with one another. To add yet another layer of friction between these two couples and their massive societal and educational divide between them is the fact that Early is a bona-fide serial killer himself, and so with this tentative quartet of individuals, they dubiously hit the road for California.
As I said, it's interesting to see how these two couples reflect off each other and not just Brian and Carrie and Early and Adele, I mean how the two women and the two bond. Carrie is probably what you'd call a feminist who spends the early part of the movie disillusioned and drunk, while Adele seems happy enough under the care of Early until Carrie starts pressing her. Brian is a prime example of an educated beta-male who's lived his life in an insulated world, but he likes being around the strong Early, probably more than he'd like to admit. Brian reminded me of that quote from Gangs of New York "It's a funny feeling being taken under the wing of a dragon. It's warmer than you'd think." and although his fascination with Early doesn't last, it is there.
The acting from Brad Pitt is fantastic as he swaggers around primitively and commands the screen, Juliette Lewis gets a bit annoying after a while, but played her part as she was supposed to. David Duchovny was okay, a little bit bland at times, but Michelle Forbes came across as being gratingly supercilious. I think the over-exaggerated caricatures didn't exactly help. The direction was fine although some scenes could have been drawn out more and better shot, and the writing could have gone quite a bit deeper, especially between Brian and Early.
The transition of the painfully idealistic Brian from a man who didn't believe in punishment and the death penalty and thought that serial killers just needed some 'help and treatment' into a man who realized that some people are just beyond repair and deserve to be killed is posed to ask ourselves some 'what if' questions. Brian often wondered what separated serial killers from the majority of people who don't kill, and he eventually got his answer, nothing, absolutely nothing. It's a haunting realization to come to, although it could have been told with more subtlety and with more of a harrowing psychological edge than it did.
Written by - The Sentry - 19/12/2015