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Author Topic: Running On Empty
Valley

Dated Julie From 'Valley Girl' (allegedly!)
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In the opening scenes of "Running on Empty", 17-year old Danny Pope (River Phoenix) is riding home on his bike when he sees a car filled with FBI agents heading in the direction of his house. In what has become a fairly routine situation for him, Danny immediately turns around and warns his 10-year old brother Harry (Jonas Arby) and they both go to meet their parents, Arthur (Judd Hirsch) and Annie (Christine Lahti), at work. The Pope family never returns to their home and immediately flees to another town, where they formulate their latest plan to change their names and assume a brand new identity.

It is soon revealed that Arthur and Annie were former political radicals who blew up a napalm factory in protest against the Vietnam War during their youth. Unfortunately, a janitor who wasn't supposed to be in the building was blinded and paralyzed by the bombing, so Arthur and Annie have spent 15 years on the run from the FBI as wanted fugitives. The family's entire lifestyle has involved remaining underground and constantly changing their identity while travelling from town to town, and the children have never known any other way to live.

However, Danny has finally started to reach the point where he has grown tired of running. The Pope family move to a small town in New Jersey, where Danny's talent at playing the piano catches the eye of the local high school music teacher, Mr. Phillips (Ed Crowley). Danny soon finds himself falling in love for the first time with the music teacher's daughter, Lorna (Martha Plimpton), and cares about her so deeply that he is struggling to not reveal the truth about his family.

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"Running On Empty" is an excellent film that I can only handle watching occasionally because it is such a sad movie that brings tears to my eyes at the end. I just watched it again for the first time in years and Christine Lahti was just incredible. It is very tough to watch River Phoenix in this somewhat depressing movie and not think about what might have been as he gives us a glimpse of his quiet talent. And finally, as much as Martha Plimpton annoyed me in "The Goonies", I have to admit that she charmed me in "Running On Empty".

Oh and what a trip to see Steven Hill playing Lahti's father. He was already in his 60's when this film was made.. but how good was he in later years in such things as "The Firm" and the tv show "Law & Order"?

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I consider "Running On Empty" a very somber tale that makes me think about how the decisions that you make in life affect others. There is so much in this movie if you can handle its rather slow pace that allows the story and the characters to eventually touch you in the end.

So even if you have no plans to ever watch this movie, please at least click the link below for a tune and moment in the movie that I totally enjoy:

 - (click to play scene from movie)

This might be interesting to a few people.. Naomi Foner who wrote "Running On Empty" is the mother of Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Also, "Running On Empty" is currently available on Netflix instant watch. [Cool]

[ 04. September 2011, 11:41: Message edited by: Valley ]

Posts: 7845 | From: Smiling and glancing in awe in the back of a limo | Registered: Mar 2003 | Site Updates: 19  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
kevdugp73
He's eating after dark again....
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Great scene Valley. I bought this a while back but haven't got a chance to watch it....I love Judd Hirsch in anything...even "Dracula Saves The World"!!! [Eek!] Haven't watched an 80's movie in a while, so might aim to get to it tonight....
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aTomiK
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Very good, touching movie.
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pettyfan
Livin' next door to the Klopeks
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Haven't seen this one in years...saw it in the 80s (during my River Phoenix phase). Might add it to my instant que and watch it again.
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Bernie_Lomax

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I watched this as a kid and did not enjoy it at all, but that was due to me being young and not being able to understand the themes in the movie. I have seen this recently and I thought it was a great movie. Definitely worth a re-watch if you may not have liked it in the past.

Great movie.

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Muffy Tepperman
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It was the same for me.

It played on tv a lot when I was a kid and I always watched it because of River......but never got what was going on and it was a drama.

I always thought River and Martha dated in real life? is that true?

I'll give it another shot here soon.

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cindymancini
Selling underpants to geeks since 1984...
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Found this movie several years ago when I went through a River Phoenix phase & felt compelled to see all of his films...thing is about River, I'm not sure it was a phase, he's always kinda right there in the background for me.

Running On Empty was a film I discovered during my research. I have to say this film & Dogfight, outside of Stand By me, were the two that touched me the most.

River's performance here was still pure & unaffected, unlike some of his later roles that suffered as a result of his substance abuse. He played the character Danny with so much emotion it was almost palpable. I ached along with him throughout this movie. Seeing the struggle between obeying & protecting his parents & living his own life & making undeniable connections with his talent & first love, moved me to tears on more than one occasion.

Yes, River & Martha did date in real life at this point & you can see the sincerity between them in the film.

Additionally, I loved the musical aspect of Danny's character & how he was desperately searching for an outlet to display his talent.

I remember reading somewhere that River actually sat with a piano instructer & learned to play the pieces that were used in the film so it would look authentic. It was important to him that his hands & fingers had the correct placement. As a pianist, I was impressed by his dedication, as the classical pieces used in the film are not easy to master.

For all the reasons mentioned above, Running On Empty is well deserving of a watch. I say this with the certainty that you won't be disappointed.

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Bernie_Lomax

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quote:
Originally posted by Muffy Tepperman:
It was the same for me.

It played on tv a lot when I was a kid and I always watched it because of River......but never got what was going on and it was a drama.

I always thought River and Martha dated in real life? is that true?

I'll give it another shot here soon.

Yeah, I have always thought they date as well. I guess they did. I am sure they would have had some sort of special relationship anyway.
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Logan 5
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Funny thing about River Phoenix... every movie I watch of his post 'Stand By Me', I get distracted by his pouting and running his hands through his hair. I still warm to him as an actor, and I liked this movie, but I keep thinking; cut out the preening pretty boy!
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