Pearblossom Hwy, director Mike Ott’s follow-up to Littlerock, is billed as a movie that champions downtrodden, aimless youth trying to survive in suburban desert communities north of Los Angeles. The film raises many important issues, from the abuse of nitrous oxide to the sorrow of not knowing one’s father to the tragedy of prostitution as a last-ditch employment option for immigrants who are awaiting citizenship exams and the right to work in the U.S. without restrictions. While actors Atsuko Okatsuka (Atsuko) and Cory Zacharia (Cory) turn in strong performances, the film leaves too many serious questions unanswered.
As we watch Pearblossom Hwy, we are either immediately drawn to or repulsed by Cory. A jobless young man who dreams of making it big with his punk band, Cory is the epitome of an aimless drifter. In the beginning of the film he says that he always wanted to be “a rebel without a cause,” but we have to confront the fact that he can never attain this romantic vision of self. This is actually one of the more problematic aspects of the movie precisely because we sense that Ott wants us to empathize with Cory, but we have a hard time doing so because he just isn’t all that likable. He has no interest in taking responsibility for himself as a human being, so why should we be interested?