An opening shot of a pair of teenage legs on a moving skateboard already signals that helmer Larry Clark isn’t exactly interested in innovation in “Marfa Girl.” This portrait of a group of characters in Marfa, Texas, feels like vintage Clark, as the skinny, more-naked-than-clothed boys and girls smoke weed, have sex and shoot the breeze while the town’s screwed-up adults do everything they can to set a bad example. The director has said the pic will be distributed only through his website, larryclark.com, though its presence in Rome suggests that fest play’s also a possibility.
Though the film is named after a slightly older visiting artist (Drake Burnette), who’s a neo-hippie and female libertine, its gravitational center is Adam (Adam Mediano), who spends most of his 16th birthday and the couple of days that follow having sex, talking about sex, smoking pot and simply hanging out with friends. His posse includes his beanpole girlfriend (Mercedes Maxwell) and a neighbor (Indigo Rael) in her early 20s who’s got a child and a b.f. in jail, and who casually decides to have sex with Adam in lieu of a birthday present.
Though apparently a bright kid, Adam’s not really into school, and when he falls asleep during a rather approximate account of the French Revolution, his pregnant teacher (Lindsay Jones), with a circa-1984 Madonna crucifix earring, feels the need to give the boy a “birthday spanking.” This being a Clark film, more spanking will follow.
The director’s loose-limbed, impressionistic take on adolescent life in a torpid Texan Nowheresville is very familiar — and not only for Clark’s fans — but otherwise convincing. As in previous Clark pics, including “Kids” and “Ken Park,” the sex and nudity are as plentiful as the plot and teen characters are thin.
The lack of big storylines or events makes a subplot about a nutso border patrol officer (Jeremy St. James) interested in Adam’s mom (Mary Farley) stand out like a sore thumb with its neat Hollywood-style psychological backstory and comeuppance. Still, St. James shines among the mostly non-pro, decidedly mixed-bag ensemble. The somewhat aloof Mediano isn’t quite charismatic enough to make auds care about his layabout lead character, though he’s certainly got a striking mug.
Lenser David Newbert drenches Marfa in bright Texan sunlight, and his natural-feeling compositions are a good fit for the visual sensibility of former photog Clark. Cast member Jessie Tejada wrote some of the appropriately grungy songs on the soundtrack, complemented by Bobby Johnston’s more classical guitar-based score, which features some hip, vintage-sounding electronic influences. Cutting by Affonso Goncalves (“Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Winter’s Bone”) is smooth, though the current edit does ran a tad long at 105 minutes.