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Twin Desires

Rosie and Violet Go Boating: Daisy Eagan (right) and Monica Keena float down a river full of submerged sexual symbolism in Mo Ogrodnik's first feature.

Two young girls come of age in 'Ripe'

By Richard von Busack

TWIN 14-YEAR-OLD runaways Rosie (Daisy Eagan) and Violet (Monica Keena), freed from their hated parents by a car crash, hit the road aiming to go to Kentucky, "where there's fields of dandelions." On the way, they turn up at a half-deserted South Carolina army base, where they're taken in by Pete (Gordon Currie), a young civilian working on the premises. Violet, the prettier and more flirtatious of the two, starts a romance with the young man, but Rosie, left out in the cold, turns to violence.

Ripe, writer/director Mo Ogrodnik's debut film, is underpowered and gives itself away through some opening narration and symbolism that tip you off to the story's ending. The best part of Ripe is the way Ogrodnik captures the peculiar ambiance of the dying military post. The base, which the grass is reclaiming, is a unique location, with its burst fences, disintegrating concrete, decaying vaults of surplus military junk and layers of pornographic pictures peeling on the walls. It seems to have driven the few troops that remain there loco. On the night of the Fourth of July, a bunch of the recruits get together for a bonfire/wrestling match/group howl that's like a Tom of Finland fantasia. With scenes like that orgy, Ogrodnik conveys real spookiness and dread about the girls' sexual coming of age (Violet, who has just got her first period, is "ripe" for deflowering). The mood is reminiscent of Joyce Carol Oates and David Lynch (Ripe's first shot is an homage to the famous bug's-eye-view opener of Blue Velvet).

With material this delicate, the few fissures in the story look like canyons. The obvious question--why doesn't the base commander do something about these girls?--keeps nagging as you watch. Fourteen-year-olds can zoom suddenly from being little girls to accomplished flirts--and back to little girls again--but Keena is a little too knowing for the part of Violet. Eagan's Rosie is somewhat more convincing, but her acting is still a little too loud--you wonder why anyone could ignore the little demon. All told, Ripe is a creepy Southern gothic tale with a powerful ending, marred by a lack of acting good enough to match the atmosphere. Only Ron Brice, as the MP who takes a liking to the dangerous Rosie, is as authentic as the settings.

Ripe (Unrated; 93 min.), directed and written by Mo Ogrodnik, photographed by Wolfgang Held and starring Monica Keena and Daisy Eagan.

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From the June 12-18, 1997 issue of Metro.

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