Gas, Food, Lodging is Allison Anders’ second film after making the messy but interesting punk road movie Border Radio and it’s most likely her best. There are certain critics who hail Grace of My Heart as the masterpiece but Gas, Food, Lodging just tips it for me. The commas in the title have caused much stress on Anders over the years but it’s meant to have two commas. The mistake in the title was due to the lab screwing up on the title card with the single comma so it’s often titled Gas, Food Lodging but it’s often stylized without any commas especially on posters or home video (this release is no exception!.)
The project originated as an adaptation of the book Don’t Look and It Won’t Hurt by Richard Peck. The finished film bears little resemblance to the original source material because Allison Anders would inject a lot of her own experiences of a daughter of a single mother and being a single mother herself. The film is about the waitress Nora (Brooke Adams) and her two daughters Trudi (Lone Skye) and Shade (Fairuza Balk) and their everyday lives in this small fictional New Mexico town of Laramie and their struggles and relationships etc. Trudi narrates the film and has echoes of the narration of Days of Heaven, which also starred Brooke Adams.
The performances from the cast are outstanding and as Josh Olson states on the interview on the disc the family depicted in the film actually looks they are a real family. Brooke Adams who was always an interesting actress who choose interesting roles and most certainly pulls off playing this stressed single mother trying to do her best for her wayward teenagers. Lone Skye and Fairuza Balk have great chemistry and over the 100 running time stamp their own character’s individuality on the film. James Brolin is a left-field choice for Trudi’s estranged father and is absolutely perfect.
The score is composed by J. Mascis which always with his stuff has heavy echoes of Neil Young’s guitar playing. Nick Cave was initially interested in doing the music but for whatever reason, it didn’t happen but one of his songs features in the film. Ironically Nick Cave would become a prolific film composer in recent years something Mascis hasn’t but he has worked on a number of Allison Anders’ films over the year.
The ’90s independent film boom was certainly, for the most part, a boys club as is Hollywood in general but Allison Anders was one of the few let into their club for a couple of years. She would direct a segment of Four Rooms along with Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez but she has struggled since the early ’00s and like many directors male or female of her generation has ended up working mostly in episodic television in the last ten years. The special features include a documentary on the challenges women faced in the industry from 1995, it’s sad to watch because with the exception of Kathryn Bigelow all the directors have moved into television or have stopped directing altogether. Not a huge amount has changed despite various pushes for more diversity in the industry.
The other feature is a new conversation with Allison Anders and the screenwriter of A History of Violence Josh Olson. The release also includes a booklet with new writing on the film.