Was not expecting what I got.
After they bomb a napalm plant during the Vietnam War, Arthur and Annie Pope (Judd Hirsch and Christine Lahti) are fugitives, never able to settle down in one place for too long. Years later, their son (River Phoenix) falls in love with a young woman (Martha Plimpton) and must decide whether to keep running with his family or stay put and risk never seeing them again.
Now I know what your probably saying is that yeah yeah it looks like another one of those family on the run until boy falls in love story, well yeah your right but it so much better than what you first think about it.
The whole film is based on this family trying to run away from its past, but it all somehow ends up coming after them. Although you will probably think that many of the scenes would be as cheesy as a Lifetime movie of the week it actually succeeds a lot more with it’s scenes. There are probably about 4 or 5 just heart drenching scenes that made me feel emotions that I haven’t felt towards a film in years. However, don’t get yourself wrong this is not a total tear-jerker is anything there are a lot of scenes that have somewhat little bits of humor, that really does pay off for this film.
Most of the credit should definitely go to the screenplay writer Naomi Foner, who seems like she has a lot on her plate, but actually does do a very good job with it. Many of the overused cliche lines in any film that has strong emotion are simply thrown away and put in with new twists and sometimes even more inventive ways to deliver a line.
River Pheonix is the real reason why to see this film. I first saw him first in Stand By Me, and now as I grow older I realize just how truly great of an actor he was and always will be, and without this film he wouldn’t have been known by how he is now. He shows a great performance that isn’t so much of a supporting act as a story that the film is mostly based on. Also, Christine Lahti has a couple of really good scenes especially the one with her father where she shows she really can act. Judd Hirsh is a good actor I just didn’t feel like he belonged in this film and was miscast. He looked a little too old, and sort of over did the witty hippie look.
The one thing I liked about it the most that really kept me glued on was the way this family interacted with each other. The acting is good, but the way they interact with each other actually made me feel like I was watching a home documentary. They felt like a real family that just had problems and throughout the whole film they were instantly believable.
Consensus: Running On Empty, is a beautiful portrait of a family that tries to escape it’s past with very fresh dialogue, phenomenal acting from Pheonix, and some of the most tear-jerking scenes of all time.