Gas Food Lodging (1992)
You can tell a lot about people by examining how they respond to the mind-numbing ennui of small-town life--at least, that's what writer/director Allison Anders posits in Gas Food Lodging, a low-key, haunting stunner about making do when poverty walks in the door and white knights are in short supply. Put-upon, cynical Nora (Brooke Adams) waits tables at a truck stop in a New Mexico nowheresville and runs through a few swaggering Marlboro Men in her search for, well, if not Mr. Right, at least an unattached someone who'll stick around for a bit. She also stages epic battles within the confines of her trailer's tinny walls with wayward 17-year-old daughter Trudie (Ione Skye), who sleeps around and aches to shake off the dust of their tumbleweed-choked burg. Amid the battling, upbeat, idealistic younger sister Shade (Fairuza Balk) is all but ignored; she feeds her fantasies of finding a dad to sew up their lopsided family circle by escaping to a Spanish-language cinema, basking in the glamorous flicker of black-and-white potboilers from south of the border. The performances are terrific all around--the likable Balk is particularly terrific--and former Dinosaur Jr. frontman J. Mascis contributes an evocative score.