Here's where I have always been at a loss about sex in film: I have sex, I know how how it can twist and turn and slide and spurt. I dig it, too. But why would I want to watch awkward huffing and humping instead of something spellbinding and imaginative? I would never censor a director, but Larry Clark's movies contain nothing but sex, and without the act, or characters to heading towards the act, then he wouldn't be a director, or even a photographer. I don't know if he could express himself without capturing other people show off what we all do weekly or daily, or for some sad sacks, monthly. As a director and writer, Larry Clark suffers from not having anything to say. There are truisms and platitudes abound, and without recycled sex angles and recycled sexuality, like the kind I've heard enough trailer park honeys say, which is Marfa Girl's (played by Drake Burnette) euphonious character's entire philosophy.
This is a minor point of contention, but even the title evades my understanding. The film, for the most part, follows Adam, played by Adam Mediano, as he has futon sex, skates, smokes, and kicks rocks in Marfa, Texas. The girls come (go ahead, giggle, I sure did) and go. Maybe that's the point; maybe people become shuffled cards in this film's world, I don't know. It just seems like Clark needed a title and the Marfa Girl is a fish out of water, though, because she's doing an artist residency. She's no fish out of water, but she is a cliché. She spouts sexual clichés about how if she keeps having sex, she is only reaffirming the stereotype that she is a slut, though the men in her life are “players” and conquers. Oh, she's an artist, too, but you're only told that twice when you see her work, but it never plays any role in the film. She's only a finger painter. If movies could stop and ask the audience's opinion about the state of things, I would demand that she stop fucking and start painting, because it seems she only works when men are asleep, because since moving to Marfa, she can only paint nudes. Blockage in art happens, it really does. Writers block, for example. But it can be cured by watching an unpleasant movie and reviewing it for a friend.
And since this is all under the auspices of “for a friend,” I will say that the movie is gorgeous. For better or worse, Clark has left his mark on film. I believe I have read that commercial artists strive to make products that resemble thirty-second Larry Clark films, and there's no better example then when the film turns into a blue jean commercial after a wretched musical performance by a local band. There's kissing in failing light, footsies by a fence, and a goddamn horse actually trots through the scene. It is undeniably beautiful, although it's nothing more than a flaccid attempt at character development.
For a friend, a real Marfa girl, the one who plays Angie:
Hey, I hope you know that this is an achievement. You should never be reluctant to take pride in being in this movie or the work you did for Marfa Girl. It's not your fault you were in a Larry Clark movie; it's Larry Clark's fault you were in a Larry Clark movie.
Sixteen violent and sexual birthday swats is how the movie lets you get to know Adam, and I felt them all. I'm not buying that we're supposed to give a puddle of evaporating spit about any of the females in the movie, even you, so I'm stuck with seeing the world through Adam's eyes. So when the deaf teacher tells me, the audience, that Adam is a smart kid, I don't buy it because I haven't yet been shown it, since the movie opens with Adam and his friend smoking pot and talking how “real people talk,” which is how an asshole thinks the youth of Marfa talk, which I'm sure isn't too different from any other Texas town I have been do, lived in, or done drugs in. Flashing red and blue interrupts Adam and his friend. The two don't have to evade the police officer, really, just a Border Patrol agent, Adam is caught. As we soon the find out, the agent who catches him is addicted to power, perversion, and bad beer, so it's very easy to see how Adam, a kid on his feet only when he's putting ladies on their backs, is caught: Adam is stupid. Larry Clark has been known to do that—in fact, he does it all the time. He tells us who is smart as opposed to showing us who is smart: he skips character development in favor of simple shock. Sweet, sweet shock. Somehow, people love that for him, too. So when Adam meets up with the friend who got away, and is asked how his day of school was, Adam's response is “Pretty gay.” He then proceeds to speak in a series of “sucks.” Adam is a terrible character, and experiencing this movie through him is a series of spankings.
Hopelessness is ubiquitous, I get it. It's crushing, so crushing that it eliminates language and the ability for us to talk about how we actually feel. Larry Clark could take the route, but he doesn't. Every character speaks as if they are ashamed of their humanity. Oh, there I go again. All that would be interesting, but that's not what happens. So far, just half an hour into the film, and I know it's badly written past any salvation. Harshness in life doesn't justify hopeless art. Ian McEwan and Cormac McCarthy are two of my favorite writers, and all of their characters are repulsive, but a reader can relate to them, but Larry Clark makes that impossible, and he seems to proud of it, too.
Lisa, it's been a long thirty-minutes, but now you're in the frame, selling burgers and shakes, all with a smile. What I like it that the movie instantly lets the audience know that you are an innocent, mostly because you are contrasted, physically divided by a counter, with the worst fucker in the movie: the Border Patrol agent who busted Adam: Tom, played by Jeremy St. James. Angie is so innocent, she thinks Tom is just another customer at her burger place; so when he asks her out, she says yes. A date is set that night for seven, and then, BOOM!, there's a cut to a girl in her panties. Lisa, you work quick! That was strange, but not as strange as how Clark handles Tom and Angie's relationship.
It takes forty-one minutes for Angie, dressed to thrill, to pop back into frame, bubbly, I might add. Clark knew that he was doing with he cast you, and I know what he finds people to play the characters that are in his head, and most of the time it all turns ugly, but not you.
“Hey there, Smiles,” says Tom. He's wearing his Border Patrol outfit the same way a high school jock would wear his letter jacket. I still have no idea why he has asked you out. He's racist, right? You're brown, right? But here's the real kicker, Angie is treated to a rare moment of development. She's not giving head at a red light while a bus load of nuns idles next to them, and she's not being beaten, instead she's getting a chance to talk. She talks about her youth and her struggles as a fast food employee. Holy shit, Lisa, you played a real person in a Larry Clark movie. But why does Tom ask Angie questions? Why does he want her to unpack her life for him as well as the audience? Either way, it doesn't matter because Tom takes Angie back to his place instead of going on a date.
See, we all know something dark is about to happen. Tom is a sociopath: firing range targets on his walls like fine art, various guns on shelves, everything around him lets us know he's a killer. Okay, cool. Got it.
Tom's plan for the date: “I'm going to fuck you.”
So, Larry Clark, you write a character named Angie, one of my good friends plays Angie; she gets to play one of maybe the three characters you have ever challenged yourself to develop. Angie has a back story, a struggle, and most importantly, she is relateable. And then she's fucked. Maybe. She is maybe raped but she is certainly fucked. The scene ends on an ellipses and so does Angie.
Is Angie killed? Who knows. Does Angie kill herself? Who knows. Adam's mother Mary, played by Mary Farley, is a character who is fated from the start: once the audience knows that Tom is a rapist, we all know he's gunning for her, so we invest anxiety and concern over her. And when it happens, because you pretty much know when things like that are going to happen in Larry Clark a movie, there's satisfaction because it's an actual goddamn conclusion, not a simple camera cut. Let's get creative, lets say that we see Angie raped, because we see everything else. This broke her as a person, and all that “I'm happy to be away from my older brothers” sentiment is gone, now. Instead of Adam, on a revenge bender for his own dignity and to save his mother, shooting Tom, why didn't Angie's brothers save her in a savage but fulfilling manner? Tom is dragged behind his own truck and left at the Mexican border, or something. Yeah, that seems dark. It seems like something from a Larry Clark film. But it's not. What's really in a Larry Clark film is nothing but dissatisfaction. Aside from Angie, of course.
The “Marfa girl” seems more like all the girls in Marfa—all except Angie. Weird, conversation-heavy sex is shown, but brutal sex is skipped. I guess Tom being a cardboard villain was already too much in Larry Clark's opinion, I don't know. Tom, like everyone else, seems to want nothing but sex before the possible rape scene, but later we learn he is certainly insane, and this is reaffirmed by how he gets sexual gratification: pain inflicted on himself. So why would there be that contraction in the film? Oh, yeah, it's because Larry Clark is a boob.
The worst offender, though, past Angie's unfortunate chopped up remains—through editing or Tom's ax—is that no one argues with one another in Marfa Girl. If Adam was as smart as we are told, then he would offer insight for other characters to tear into or apply to their own lives. But all Adam and the rest of Marfa seems to offer is emptiness. After the Marfa Girl hows Adam how women pee and don't wash their hands, the two go on a desert stroll.
“Don't use that Ax body spray. You need to smell like you, we need to be able to smell each other's pheromones,” says the Marfa Girl.
“The expensive stuff helps,” responds Adam.
That kind of fat in a script doesn't taste good at all, and it makes the characters seem pointless, which they are, especially since this is the scene where the Marfa Girl pisses out her false equivalence of sluts versus players. False equivalences are no way to live, and that could be the point, but much like Angie, it's not a tragedy if no one learns anything, it's just bad writing. It's not prudishness, these characters just don't offer any insight, no truths, nothing to share other than sex on screen. It's not that I'm naive that real kids aren't redundant and sexually active, it's just that the people populating the script and screen are empty shells filled with pointless dialogue and actions. The only thing I learned is how much I hate them, all of them.
There are things I enjoy. The small town everyone-knows-everyone truth is there, as well bullying cops that are just like Angie—they're caught in life and don't know how to get out without feeling like they've done wrong, even though they're actively doing dubious things. I like the pervasive police state that Marfa is painted to be. It's just sad that these straw men who represent real agencies do as much disservice to the world as the teenagers that represent Marfa's youth.
Anyway, RIP, Angie, or whatever happened to you.