The best way to understand your subject matter is to immerse yourself in the subject. It had been awhile since I had seen KALIFORNIA. After viewing it again I realized why it had been so long. The film leaves you feeling empty and disturbed over the events that have transpired. Performances given by Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis carry the story and I hate to think what it would have been without them.
After a suggestion by his girlfriend Carrie (Michelle Forbes), Brian (David Duchovny) decides to set out on a road trip to California. The journey isn’t as playful as it might seem. Brian is trying to put together a book that goes inside the minds of serial killers. On the way to the sunshine state, the couple stops at several locations where brutal murders were committed. Brian records his thoughts on his tape recorder while Carrie takes photographs. However before they take off Brian hangs an ad up looking for someone to join the trip that can pitch in some gas money. This was not the brightest of ideas.
Before their descent into a hell on the roads less traveled, Brian and Carrie meet Early (Pitt) and Adele (Lewis). Carrie is leery of the pairing before they even speak to them and in this case the first impression is the correct one. The child like Adele makes a painfully awkward pairing for the overtly redneck Early. Each minute either of them are on screen there’s this skin crawling tension that you are compelled to feel.
The shift of the film then quickly focuses on Early. Adele comes with background information at some point, but there is never much said about Early. The only thing that is mentioned is the possible issue with his Father, but they don’t come close to explaining his actions. As someone residing in Texas, Early is the type of guy that you could easily run into at Wal-Mart or some dive bar at the edge of town. The point is, Early is one amongst many that we could be next to at any given time—but his darkness starts to show through. At one point he engages Brian by asking about the motive behind The Black Dahlia murders. You think that Early will provide some redneck insight, then he asks Brian if he’s ever killed before. “How can you get in the mind of a killer if you’ve never killed anyone?”
What’s scary is that the true motive behind Early and Adele going along for the ride is never presented. As they make each stop, Brian seems to get closer with Early who shows him what a real man is like–so to speak. Carrie also learns more about Adele, although this knowledge does nothing but fuel her existing fear. Duchovny and Forbes play very one-dimensional stiff roles. Brian at times is an intriguing character then you lose what’s so great about him when he slides back into being a man-boy. Carrie borders on uninteresting dominatrix, sadly her character never picks up any steam.
California might be the place to take your dreams, but along the way those dreams shatter and turn to dust. The film resonates with you long after you are done with it. It brings the thought back into your mind of, “Who can you trust?” KALIFORNIA shows the reality of serial killers—they are not overdramatic characters in masks, they are the ones we don’t bother paying a second look to. As Brian says about California, if it wasn’t okay there, well, it probably wasn’t going to be okay anywhere.
Video: The video transfer on this one is great. There are only a couple of snags, mostly blurs. Also, the coloring presents a good balance and never comes across as too bold. (2.35:1 Widescreen).
Audio: I did not come across an inconsistencies in the audio. The score for the film compliments every scene. (5.1 DTS-HD).