Patience with free-form 'Marfa Girl' pays off

Writer-director Larry Clark's 'Marfa Girl' proves a sneakily immersive, weirdly memorable affair

Funny thing about "Marfa Girl," the 2012 ensemble drama from idiosyncratic writer-director Larry Clark ("Kids," "Bully"): For all its meanderings and indulgences — verbal and visual — this free-form snapshot of a circle of townsfolk in tiny Marfa, Texas, proves a sneakily immersive, weirdly memorable affair.

The "girl" of the title, a sexually free (OK, promiscuous) artist-in-residence (Drake Burnette), is actually not the focal point here. That would be 16-year-old Adam (Adam Mediano), a bright, randomly charismatic kid drifting through his sex, drugs and skateboarding existence in the dusty, dead-end community.

Much of the action, such as it is, spins around the low-key Adam, who interacts with his adorable girlfriend (Mercedes Maxwell), a seductress neighbor (Indigo Rael), his bohemian mom (Mary Farley), a provocative teacher (Lindsay Jones), a psychotic Border Patrol officer (Jeremy St. James) and, of course, the "Marfa girl." Other locals — a spiritual healer, young musicians, more border guards — float in and out as well.

Clark largely lets his cameras linger while allowing his characters, many of whom are played by non-professional actors, to chatter and philosophize. If some of what passes for narrative can feel inane, there's plenty of authentic behavior and emotion on display as well.

There's also lots of blunt sex talk and horizontal activity, with a couple of real envelope-pushing moments.

Yes, this patience-tester could have used some judicious cuts, a quickened pace and stronger focus. But that's not the Larry Clark way, so best to go with it or move on.

The cool end-credits song, "It's Okay" by Dead Moon, takes us out on a high.


'Marfa Girl'

No MPAA rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes.

Playing: Laemmle's NoHo7, North Hollywood. On VOD April 3.

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