We gave it a C
It’s one thing to be a filmmaker captivated by men, women, and their relationships; it’s another to be fixated on ”gender.” In Luminous Motion, Phillip (Eric Lloyd), a verbally audacious 10-year-old, is headed for nowhere in a red Impala along with his mother (Deborah Kara Unger), a sexy, dissolute lush who rambles from man to man, from vodka bottle to vodka bottle. The director, Bette Gordon, might be working up a low-rent variation on ”Tumbleweeds.” That is, until Phillip begins to encounter what look like the bloodied ghosts of his businessman Dad and the hardware-happy boyfriend who was Mom’s most recent flame. Since Lloyd has dark marble eyes that flash with precocious expertise, you half expect him to say, ”I see dead significant others.”
What, exactly, is going on in ”Luminous Motion”? The movie scarcely lives up to its title — its tone is stilted and mannered — and most of it seems a bit loony until you realize that Gordon, adapting a novel by Scott Bradfield (the script is by Bradfield and Robert Roth), has recast the story as a feminist allegory. Unger’s mom, while guilty of a parental neglect that borders on child abuse, is the sozzled, depressive martyr who destroys herself to flee the suffocation of men. Her various mates are the patriarchy’s toy soldiers: stiff, myopic souls who strive to inflict their petty order on everyone around them.
Gordon is known for her one previous feature, the scrappy 1985 indie ”Variety,” an East Village parable of liberation through porn that managed to find little joy in either of them. In ”Luminous Motion,” she has gained some visual flair, but she still treats moviemaking as a form of thesis writing. It’s Gordon, and not just the world, who’s trapping people in their genders.