Gas Food Lodging's poster sums up everything the movie isn't about. In a woeful effort to put a sexy spin on proceedings, lone Skye and Fairuza Balk stare out with dodgy come-hither pouts, and the tag line ("When Shade's good she's very good, but when Trudi's bad, she's better") succeeds, with just a dozen words, to undermine the integrity of the whole damn shooting match.
Moral: you want sex? See Basic Instinct. You want quiet charm and realism? This one's for you. Every 50 miles or so on the highways of the US there are signs offering life's basics - gas, food, lodging - and it is in one of the truck-stop drops in New Mexico that Shade (Balk) and Trudi (Skye) are living out their suitably tortured adolescence.
Sharing a trailer with their long-suffering mum (Adams), the sisters cope with life in very different ways - Shade by retreating (literally and metaphorically) into matinee showings of romantic Hispanic movies, Trudi by sleeping around with the local berks. When Trudi meets a seemingly sincere British geologist, long-lost father James Brolin reappears to make amends, and mum falls for the local satellite dish installer, life for the threesome inevitably begins to change.
Basing her script on Richard Peck's unusually sensitive novel, first-timer Allison Anders has imbued the tale with yet more of a feminine perspective ("Who used the last tampon and didn't buy any more?"), slowly revealing the strange characters and the stranger location with a startling confidence and a highly developed sense of realism.
There is the caveat, however, that Gas Food Lodging falls firmly into the sub-class of American movies in which very little happens, lots of tumbleweed blows around and people make very little sense - just like real life in New Mexico, no doubt. The complete opposite of wham-bam edge-of-your-seat material, this is, then, a delicate and small tale, but one that's well worth it.