GenreDrama ScreenplayKelly Reichardt CountryUnited States
Release dateOctober 13, 1995 (1995-10-13) WriterJesse Hartman (story), Kelly Reichardt (screenplay), Kelly Reichardt (story) Initial releaseAugust 4, 1995 (New York City) CastLisa Bowman (Cozy), Larry Fessenden (Lee Ray Harold), Michael Buscemi (Doug), Greg Schroeder (Bobby), Santo Fazio (Detective Ortiz), Dick Russell (Jimmy Ryder) Similar moviesTheo Against the Rest of the World, Mississippi Grind, On the Road, Dumb and Dumber To, Straight Outta Compton, Logan's Run
TaglineBeing outlaws was rougher than they thought
North miami beach greyhound bus station scene from the movie river of grass 1994
River of Grass (1994) is the debut film of American director Kelly Reichardt, who also wrote the screenplay. It was selected for the Sundance Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival, and was nominated for the Sundance Grand Jury Prize in 1994, and for three Independent Spirit Awards in 1996.
The film is set in Broward and Dade Counties in Florida, between Miami and the Everglades (nicknamed "the River of Grass"). A local couple is involved in a shooting incident and then try to leave South Florida but lack the money to do so.
Bottle cap inn scene from the movie river of grass 1994 north miami
Cozy is a dissatisfied housewife in her thirties who feels no emotional connection with her children. After getting dressed up to go to a bar she is nearly run over by Lee. Inside Lee buys Cozy a drink. He convinces her to break into a friend's home where they swim in a pool and Lee shows Cozy the gun that he was given by a friend who found it by the side of the road. While Lee shows Cozy how to use the gun the owner of the pool comes out to investigate and the gun goes off. Believing they have killed the man Cozy and Lee go on the run together.
Themes and conception
Reichardt grew up in the part of Florida the film depicts. She has described the film as "[a] road movie without the road, a love story without the love, and a crime story without the crime." Her subsequent films, such as Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, involve similar themes, of people trying to leave a place but frustrated by their lack of resources. Of that theme, Reichardt said "I guess it’s just a good setup for different kinds of searching: question-asking, looking for the next place to go, what are you looking for, what are you leaving. All those things are good for grounding it in getting from point A to point B."
Festivals and theatrical release
River of Grass debuted in competition at the Sundance Film Festival in January 1994, and then played at the Berlin International Film Festival in February 1994. Its theatrical debut was in New York City at The Public Theater on August 4, 1995, which was followed by a limited release in the U.S. on October 13, 1995. It was shown at the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema on March 30, 2009.
In January 2015 distributor Oscilloscope Laboratories launched a Kickstarter in order to digitally restore the film. In December of that year the Sundance Film Festival announced that they would be showing a special screening of the film at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. A limited theatrical re-release was planned for March 2016.
The New York Times film critic Stephen Holden described River of Grass as having "the look and feel of a sophisticated home movie featuring everyday people instead of actors." He praised the film's evocation of "a sense of suffocating ennui," but criticized the story as too "sketchily told" and the dialogue as too "fragmentary" for the film to cohere.