Running on Empty (1988)


“Now, I have no right in telling this to you. It’s dangerous for you and it’s dangerous for them, but I’m sorry i just couldn’t stop myself. You can do what you want to, you can tell your dad; anything, i don’t care. I just needed you to know… I don’t know what I’m doing, and i love you.” – Michael

Number of Times Seen – Twice (6 Mar 2011 and 26 Nov 2018)

Brief Synopsis –  A family in hiding from the government must deal with their way of life especially in relation to the way they are bringing up their two young sons.

My Take on it – This is a film that I saw years ago and enjoyed it despite the fact that the story itself is a bit narrow.

The story works on most levels and we get to see the way of life this family leads from multiple perspectives.

Both Judd Hirsch and Christine Lahti are quite good in this film as the parents but the true focus and stand out here is River Phoenix as their older son.

He clearly stands out among the whole cast and was quite deserving of being nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor despite the fact that he is closer to being the actual lead.

This film gives us a clear idea of the various complexities of the way that a family on the run from the law will need to live their lives.

More importantly tho, we get to see how such a life affects a teenager even more than his parents since he is only on the run because of their actions and not of his own.

They do a great job showing this premise as a coming of age story and it works quite well.

They also show how even as a youth, it is essential that one must try and find one’s path in life even if it sometimes may clash with the wants and needs of parents.

Bottom Line – Interesting idea that works on most levels.  Hirsch and Lahti are both quite good here but Phoenix is the main focus and definitely the stand out among the entire cast.  They give us a clear idea of the complexities of life on the run but more importantly we get to see how it affects a teenager even more than his parents. Phoenix was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for this role even though he is much closer to actually being the lead here.  They do a great job of making this more of a coming of age story and showing how even as a youth finding your path in life is essential even if it sometimes may clash with the wants and needs of parents. Recommended!

MovieRob’s Favorite Trivia – Director Sidney Lumet writes in his book “Making Movies” about an argument between River Phoenix and writer Naomi Foner. A scene in the movie concerns the character played by Phoenix being interrupted while practicing a classical piano solo. In the script, when he is caught, he breaks into a jazz riff to cover his “embarrassment” at being caught doing something serious. Phoenix fought hard against this, feeling that his character would never be embarrassed about working at the piano. Lumet was so impressed by the point Phoenix made, he shot the scene the way Phoenix wanted it. (From IMDB)

Rating – Globe Worthy (7/10)

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3 thoughts on “Running on Empty (1988)

  1. Pingback: Did They Get it Right? – Best Supporting Actor – Oscars 1988 |

  2. Pingback: Temporal Top Ten – 1988 |

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