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REVIEW – The Doom Generation (1995)

April 2, 2012

FilmJuice have my review of Gregg Araki’s fifth film, the surreal and nihilistic teenage road movie The Doom Generation.

Revisiting this film was an interesting experience for me as I can remember both seeing it and reacting to it as a part of the vogue for nihilistic films that gripped 1990s American cinema. The set up is as simple as it is classic: A pair of fucked-up teenagers take to the road after accidentally killing a convenience store clerk. Moving from town to town, they rub up against the weirder elements of the American condition and try to come to terms with their place in the grand scheme of things. Each character voices a different attitude towards the sense of disillusionment and alienation that all generations feel upon coming of age. Indeed, this is a film that is as much a response to films like Easy Rider and Badlands as it is to True Romance and Natural Born Killers:

According to postmodern nihilism, nothing matters other than the mundane details of our lives. As might be expected from a broad cultural pattern, American film engaged with the idea of postmodern nihilism in a number of different ways. For example, at one end of the spectrum Quentin Tarantino’s patented blend of operatic violence and trivial chitchat spawned films such as Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers (1994) and Tony Scott’s True Romance (1993) in which nothing seemed to matter other than love. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, Larry Clark’s Kids (1995) reversed the polarity and argued that Generation X actively avoided answering the bigger questions by filling their heads with talk of relationships and old TV shows. Trapped between the romanticism of Tarantino and the outrage of Clark lies Greg Araki’s The Doom Generation a film about costs and benefits of cynical detachment.

All things considered, I think that The Doom Generation is perhaps a little bit too ‘meta’ to be anything more than an interesting rejoinder to a more worthwhile set of films, but then perhaps that was always the point of the exercise? What better way to lend voice to the angst of Generation X than to suggest that everything has been said and that all we can ever hope for is just enough sex and violence to pass the time?

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