Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) – Monte Hellman

 

The next road movie I take on for the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book’s recommendation following Easy Rider is this flick that stars James Taylor (yes that James Taylor) as The Driver.

The Driver, and his pal, The Mechanic (Dennis Wilson), work together, with as little dialogue as possible, as they travel across the country in their grey ’55 Chevy, drag racing, and earning enough money to get by.

Along the way, a young woman, simply known as The Girl (Laurie Bird) slips from one car and into theirs, just throwing her bag and life in with the Driver and Mechanic. As they drive, they pass, and are passed by a yellow G.T.O., who seems to want to race them.

G.T.O. (Warren Oates) finally convinces the Driver at a gas station to race for pinks. A cross-country race, to Washington, D.C., with the cars’ ownerships hanging in the balance. The two cars pass through scenic countryside, occasionally stopping for food and to earn money for gas and food, whether through the Girl’s canvassing for spare change or racing.

G.T.O. lives a lie, fabricating tales to inflate his own importance, and sharing them with whomever ends up in his car at the time, including a brief appearance by Harry Dean Stanton!

Two_Lane_Blacktop

As the story continues, the Girl slowly begins to become an obsession for the Driver, possibly the first time he’s discovered something that interests him outside of his car.

All of the characters bounce between the two cars, as they move across the byways of rural America, encountering life, love and death on the road. Through it all, the Driver’s obsession with the Girl grows, until that seems to be all he can think of, sacrificing a healthy lead to return to a diner where she and G.T.O. are having a morning breakfast. A breakfast, over which, G.T.O. is suggesting places the two of them can go to.

But perhaps more than any of them, the Girl is at the mercy of the road, riding it like a tide, with whomever arrives on the scene.

The ending, comes quickly, and leaves the Driver’s fate a little ambiguous, as it seems all he may have left now is The Race, while all the other characters seem to be able to move on in their own ways, living their lives and lies, as the road stretches out before them.

It’s an interesting film, but I wasn’t completely engaged in it, the acting and the dialogue when it did show up, seemed stilted and consequently it was tough to get into the film, There also wasn’t a lot in the way of great car photography, vehicles racing along roads, or against scenic backdrops, which is odd, because that is what the film was supposed to be about.

The road movie journey will continue, so let’s see where I am going next…

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