Ripe

Austin Chronicle

DIRECTED BY: Mo Ogrodnik

REVIEWED: 08-04-97

Monica Keena, Daisy Eagan, Gordon Currie, Ron Brice, Karen Lynn Gorney. (Not Rated, 93 min.)

When their parents die in a car accident that leaves the 14-year-old fraternal twin sisters ­ Violet (Keena) and Rosie (Eagan) ­ unbruised, the two decide to take off on their own and head, for some quixotic reason, to Kentucky. They just walk away from the crash in an attempt to "leave all that fucked-up shit behind." We never learn exactly what that shit was; the only clue comes in the opening prologue in which we see the girls at age six playing hide-and-seek with their father, who is chasing them with a shotgun while claiming to be an evil giant. The game seems to be both frightening and fun for the girls. About mom we know nothing. So, it's hide-and-seek and then car crash; next thing they do is take up temporary residence at the ramshackle military base where the rest of the movie unfolds and grows ever more preposterous with each passing sequence. They're given shelter for some inexplicable reason by the base's groundskeeper Pete (Currie), who passes the girls off as his nieces. This bastion of male camaraderie and power provides the backdrop for the girls' tumultuous passage through adolescent stirrings of sexuality and their inevitable need to separate from each other. Rosie's the tomboy who takes a shine to the military's discipline and ready firearms; Violet is a delectable young cupcake who finds herself intrigued by Pete's sexual attentions. Ripe comes on the heels of a series of independent films that tackle the subject of adolescent female sexuality (Manny & Lo, All Over Me, Girls Like Us). Although Ripe demonstrates many moments of evocative clarity (especially in the unaffected performances of the two leads), the movie ­ like its title ­ strings together too many empty provocations that promise much and deliver little. The movie is overly reliant on the heavy-handed symbolism of such things as full moons and the hermetic male atmosphere of the base. And this also has to be the loosest military outpost this side of anything commanded by Col. Henry Blake. The girls have unimpeded access as they wander about freely in skimpy shorts and tank tops. Unbelievabilities steadily accumulate and grow into an insurmountable pile that threatens to block out the things that are genuine or true in the story. And that's a shame, because there are many small moments in Ripe that capture the unique conflict of emotions that plague young girls trapped in those betwixt and between years.

1.5 stars

--Marjorie Baumgarten

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