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At worse, Marfa Girl is just another Larry Clark film featuring actors who look like teenagers, maybe are teenagers, having sex and odd conversations. Though, at best, it captures the peculiarities of living in a small town in which there is nothing to do so everyone is either having sex, getting high, or taking advantage of those they consider weaker than them.
Director & Writer: Larry Clark
Trigger Warning(s): Rape scenes
Review (with Spoilers) – Below
Characters & Story
The film’s focus is split between Adam (Adam Mediano) and Marfa Girl (Drank Burnette). Throughout Adam’s story he is shown as a skater boy, just making it to junior year, who spends half of his time harassed by local border patrol Officer Tom (Jeremy St. James), and the other half split between being with his girlfriend Inez (Mercedes Maxwell), and in between the legs of Donna (Indigo Rael).
As for Marfa Girl? Well, she is an artist, not from that town, who is very open about sex and sexuality. Her art niche is nude painting, and it seems Latin men are her favorite subjects and sex partners.
Leading to a film which captures the nothingness of a small town in which sex is a past time and when options are few, desperation leads to quite a few bad decisions.
With this being my 3rd Larry Clark movie, after Kids and Ken Park, I’m well used to his films seeming like well-written soft core porn, but this one felt slightly different. For while it contained all the frontal nudity, and young people having sex, of which Clark is infamous for, there does seem to be some attempt at crafting characters rather than perhaps the focus just being young people into taking their clothes off.
This can be seen through what seems like genuine chemistry between Adam and Inez, and then the conversations Adam has with Marfa Girl dealing with sexual politics and slut shaming. Also, with Tom’s character, as well as the other members of the town’s border patrol, there is what feels like insight on what small town Texans may experience, especially if they look Brown or could pass for someone who isn’t White.
Perhaps the main problem of the film is that it doesn’t seem to allow us to get to know the character on some human level. I mean, yes, they talk about themselves, speak a bit of their past, and speak on their perspectives of life, but the film seems more so geared toward capturing the character where they are within the period of the film vs. provide a fully functional human for you to get to know, understand and ultimately judge.
Take Marfa Girl and Adam for example. Marfa Girl we know is a sex connoisseur and enjoys Latin men, but as much as she talks it seems like she isn’t saying anything. For whether she is talking to Adam about sex, to a Hispanic border patrol person about hypocrisy, or even about art, something seems so phony about her and it is hard to pin down if it is the script, the actress, or perhaps a combination of both.
Then, with Adam, there is the question of what are we supposed to get out of him? Is he supposed to represent some 16-year-old coming of age, small town Texas style? Is his thoughts on cheating, and his odd relationship with his teacher, supposed to show how debauchery begins in areas like that at a young age? Or is he simply, as many who defame Clark say, just there to simulate sex and be the inspiration for another soiled tissue in Clark’s trash bin?
Overall: TV Viewing
There is something undeniably fascinating about this film, but it is hard to say if it is the characters themselves, or what Clark puts the actors through. For with dialog which often seems to be more so random tangents than compelling conversation; random acts of sex which seem geared to bring your attention back to the film; and then no real memorable performance, honestly it is hard to say this might be worth your time. However, as with any Clark film, there is something so odd in his use of taboo subjects which make his creations different enough to spend time with. And while you are left questioning his decisions, whether you should even mention watching his films, and if they may have a long-term effect on your psyche, honestly what other films really do that?
Hence the TV Viewing label for while this is certainly no masterpiece, it does present something most coming-of-age type films don’t. For with it not using some great climax or turning point, signifying our lead is on the cusp of adulthood, it feels true to life. To the point it makes you wonder how a man in his golden years even came up with this?