‘Gasoline Rainbow’ Ending Explained & Movie Recap: Does The Group Reach The Pacific Coast?

I am in a fix here with the Ross brothers’ 2023 film, Gasoline Rainbow. Usually, I admire the kind of cinema where nothing really happens; the likes of Richard Linklater’s Slacker (1991) and Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes (2003) are what I’m talking about. These movies rely solely on the vibe and the conversations between characters; most of the time, I dig those. Gasoline Rainbow is a coming-of-age road-trip movie, which should remind you of movies like Andrea Arnold’s masterful American Honey (2016), a film I absolutely loved, and Harmony Korine’s super-trippy Spring Breakers (2012), which worked for me despite its erratic nature. 


The reason I’m bringing up all these is because, while I thought there was a lot to love in Gasoline Rainbow, the whole thing fell quite short of my expectations. And while I convinced myself that I probably would have loved it if I saw it as a fifteen-year-old (which is true), the Ross brothers’ film does have some issues. It’s at least half an hour longer. While it’s novel to have non-actors play the characters of teenagers to provide an authentic feel, the conversations are often repetitive (albeit realistic), which makes the movie kind of a slog. There are some genuinely uplifting moments and a fantastic soundtrack, though. I don’t think there’s much to explain in Gasoline Rainbow, considering the serious lack of a proper story, but I’m going to give it a try.

Spoilers Ahead


What Happens in the Movie?

In Wiley, Oregon, there isn’t much to life for a group of teenagers, all of whom yearn to get out and explore the outside. Gasoline Rainbow begins with a monologue where one of the teens describes how stuck he feels in the dead town. In no time, these five teenagers—Makai, Mikah, Tony, Nathaly, and Nichole—are out of Wiley in Nathaly’s van. Gasoline Rainbow doesn’t waste much time in setting up the journey by showing a bit of Wiley (other than one seem where the group is going all “The Kings of Summer”; I hope you get the BB reference), which is all the more reason it should have been shorter.

From the Moon to the Grocery Store

Can anything go wrong if a trip starts with you blasting “Sweet Child of Mine”? I’m obviously being rhetorical here, as it’s not logically possible for a practically unplanned road trip by five teenagers to go absolutely right. Anyway, it was all great in the beginning, at least. They ride and talk about anything and everything, from pizza and Coke to the moon to the grocery store—you know what I mean. The group meets this young girl, Dallas (we get to know the name later), at a gas station. She hits it off with them (especially with Makai) and accompanies the group for a bit before taking off. The group soon runs into Gary, who appears to be quite creepy considering he’s just walking alone in the road at the dead of night, but he says he’s just chilling. Gary insists the group go to a nearby party with him—a very tempting invitation—and the group obliges. The party is hella fun, with drugs, booze, bonfires, and everything; Mikai also gets to see Dallas again and have quite a moment with her. Unfortunately, the next morning, the group finds out that someone has busted up their car.


Jumping on running wagons and partying in Portland 

With no ride, the group has no choice but to walk, which seems like an impossible thing considering they’re trying to reach the Pacific coast. Fortunately, they meet a young couple who gives them the idea to catch a freight train that goes to Portland. I’m not sure if the freight train symbolizes leaving all the issues of life behind and running far away, but the whole train part is possibly the most exciting sequence of the entire film. It’s the kind of thrilling thing you do when you’re a teenager—and then tell stories about it later. 

One might wonder if it was a conscious choice for the directors to not have an arc where our group gets into any real trouble—with either the law or an outlaw—but I personally didn’t mind it. In fact, this allowed the film to have a rather free-flowing nature, which is quite soothing to watch. As much as I like Spring Breakers, I was glad to see Gasoline Rainbow not following the Korine way of going full chaotic in the final third. The tone of the film remains quite consistent from start to finish, which works out in its favor. 


Upon reaching Portland, the group finds their way with a metal band and hangs out with them. It was a nice touch to make one of the band members play “Shire” while cooking breakfast in the morning, especially because I couldn’t have imagined a movie like Gasoline Rainbow playing a casual homage to something as legendary as The Lord of the Rings. The pop culture references keep popping up throughout the film, as the band brings out a boat, which was apparently used in Where the Wild Things Are (2009), the lesser-known but quite underrated Spike Jonze film.

Does the group reach the Pacific Coast?

Even though it initially seemed like reaching the Pacific coast was a distant dream, as Gasoline Rainbow comes closer to the finishing line, you realize it’s not that kind of film. So our group—Makai, Mikah, Tony, Nathaly, and Nichole—does end up on the Pacific coast. From Portland, they take the boat, then find themselves on a small cruise ship, heading for something called an end-of-the world party in the middle of the water. By the time they reach the party, it has ended, though—untimely for sure, thanks to police boats crawling all over it. Naturally, it’s best not to go nearby, and the group does the smart thing by making an exit. 


On the coast, they see something like a ship burning from afar. That happens to be a beach party, and the party people are more than happy to welcome the group. The next morning, the group is tired and exhausted, but they’re more than happy given how things have turned out. They do have to get back to life and embrace the mundane, but what really counts is that, for the time being, they’ve managed to do something that really matters to them. Gasoline Rainbow ends with Kerry McKoy and Antonio Williams’ “Changes” playing in the background. Needless to say, there couldn’t have been a better song than this to wrap things up. I will probably forget the film soon, but I’m surely raiding Spotify for the soundtrack.

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Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra likes to talk about movies, music, photography, food, and football. He has a government job to get by, but all those other things are what keep him going.

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