KELLY REICHARDT is a master of the non-event. The films she's best known for—Wendy and Lucy, Meek's Cutoff, Night Moves—take place within limbos. Her characters are displaced, short on money and options. Her characters are ordinary people, shuffling along the margins. Her characters might have faults, but they aren't bad enough to bring about a sense of urgency in others. And her characters might be sad, but rarely are they beautiful or inspiring enough to make a ripple outside of a Reichardt film, where she alone casts a light on them.
Reichardt set the tone for these examinations with River of Grass, her little-seen 1994 debut—which has recently been restored, and will screen at the Hollywood Theatre with Reichardt in attendance. It's a funnier film than the ones she'd go on to make, poking fun at the Florida environs of her own upbringing. Central to the plot is Cozy (Lisa Bowman), a listless mother in the Everglades. A combination of boredom and passivity has gotten Cozy nowhere in life, and she spends her days wondering why her children don't inspire any affection and daydreaming she's somewhere else. Meanwhile, across the county line, Lee (Larry Fessenden) is nearing 30; unemployed and living with his long-suffering grandmother, he's recently acquired a gun.
River finds its thread when these two meet in a bar, sharing a night in which their combined lack of intelligence and rampant imaginations set them off on a poor man's version of Bonnie and Clyde, selling old records for gas money and roaming the Floridian wasteland barefoot and stoned. Reichardt has described her debut as a road movie without a road, a love story without love, and a crime story without crime. That's accurate, but its small moments are weird enough to make even its inaction charming and compelling.