Addiction whispers 'sexy' on film. Who wouldn’t want to help a boyfriend with a drug problem? Take a bad girl home to shock the folks? Run with a risky crowd?
Sure, the media magnifies and skews many a problem, but cinema somehow makes addiction seem both flippant and badass. I’ve watched a barrage of films since deciding to write about drugs and am still trying to find one that scoots close to the truth without crossing over into the grotesque. Have a favorite that intersects with drug abuse? Let me know, I’ll give it a watch.
I am interested to see if we’re crossing into an era of addiction documentary films. This one, A Crooked Line, is raising funds on Kickstarter to push the film into the public eye: a 'fearless portrait of pain and compassion, the story of one family's harrowing battle with drug addiction and the man who reached out to help them.'
Perhaps documentary is what it takes for education, but as someone who appreciates good fiction, I hope there are other avenues as well. For now, non-fiction visual journeys may be most beneficial and eye-opening for families dealing with substance dependence. Society might not be ready for addiction fiction since the general public doesn't yet have a lucid grasp on the real thing.
Here are the four major categories of typical addiction films, as I see them:
Rachel Getting Married -- The Realistic But Boring and Whiny
This was recommended to me by a stranger, now a friend and email correspondent, I met in rehab this past fall. I was visiting my father, he, his college-aged daughter. This was The Film the daughter insisted she and her dad watch together before she started treatment, I suspect fixated on it for him to understand her better. I entered in with high hopes, only to find myself insurmountably bored by the nonexistent storyline and plot progression. On the plus side, it does highlight a young woman with a serious addiction problem and emphasizes a problematic family dynamic common in households dealing with drug abuse.
Blow — The Beautiful Drug Addict and Illustrious Business
As my mom says, “no cocaine user looks that good.” Johnny Depp, tousled and rugged, channels the story of famed ’70s cocaine smuggler George Jung and exhibits no discernible adverse physical effects of the drug. Throughout and after it all, he’s still 10 times more attractive than most everyone else on the NYC sidewalk, and in one scene lopes through a house, struggling to find an open space in which to stack more money.
28 Days — The Easy Rehab Redemption
Sandra Bullock crashes a limo into a house, drunk, and is sentenced to a 28-day stint in rehab. She has a rehab romance with Viggo Mortensen and ultimately repairs herself, neat and clean, in less than a month. We get no sense that life can’t be fixed after a few weeks of sheer determination. I watched this as a pre-teen and couldn’t figure out why my various relatives couldn’t get their acts together. One correct point: in the rehab facilities I’ve seen, people DO chant.
Requiem for a Dream — The Horrifying, Graphic Descent Into Madness
How many ways can I say disturbing? I will never ever go near a diet pill in my life. Nor will I inject myself with anything. The trailer is nearly as incomprehensible as the film, however, the DVD title slide trumps them all. I even smacked my DVD player, thinking it broken… It’s just that trippy. This one, while I’d say fairly accurate on drugs’ detrimental effects, is a fist clencher to get through, not for the faint of heart or stomach.
Is it any wonder we’re confused about what addiction means? Oh to be gorgeous, rich, misunderstood, and easily cured… what’s a little insanity thrown in when you’ve got all that?