Undaunted by the crowd-thinning Kravitz party (tales of margaritas go far and wide) we held movie night anyhow, though it was a small audience. Malaika started us off with a short YouTube video colloquially known as The Big Hebowski, a quick little ditty wherein a few memorable quotes from The Big Lebowski are dubbed over some old He-Man cartoons. It gets about a 10 for concept, but only about a 3 for execution…a little more work (and a little more run time) would have made it quite a bit more entertaining, but at least the concept was fun.
Not only is it a kissing movie, but it is also a kissing underwater movie.
But, in addition to being both a kissing movie and a kissing underwater movie, it is also a heroin movie. Lots and lots of heroin.
Candy (the title character) and Dan (Heath Ledger) are allegedly an art student and a poet, respectively. The movie pretty much skips over that bit. Instead, it starts with Dan and one of his buddies laying out some heroin on a mirror for Candy to snort while preparing to shoot up themselves. But Candy, she wants the real deal. So, she gets them to hook her up with a needle and goes to shoot up in the bath. It’s a pretty scary moment, and she almost dies, but you’re pretty sure she won’t because she’s the title character and it’s the very beginning of the movie.
So, in the first act (entitled “Heaven”) Candy and Dan go around kissing and being in love and shooting up heroin and getting scores from their friend Casper, who is a newly minted Assistant Professor of Organic Chemistry at the unnamed local university. Casper, apparently, got real good at organic chemistry through learning to manufacture various drugs of abuse at high purity, and he is their mentor, their provider, and their enabler all in one.
Casper comes up with a few good lines throughout the movie, not the least of which is his comment to the youngsters that when you CAN stop doing heroin, you don’t want to, and when you want to stop doing heroin, you CAN’T. Paraphrased, of course.
The one thing to note, and I’ve been remiss in not mentioning it, is that these folks (Casper especially) are just about the cleanest heroin addicts ever portrayed on film. I mean, Candy and Dan live in a kind of dingy apartment, but all things considered, this is a fairly pristine portrayal of heroin abuse. Compare Trainspotting or Requiem For A Dream if you want dirty, gritty heroin use. This is sort of a Disneyfied descent into heroin hell, though maybe down under it’s a bit less dusty. (I don’t know, you’d think those Outback dust storms would bring some filth into town every once in a while.)
But Disneyfied or not, the economy isn’t any better in Australia than anywhere else, and seeing as neither of these people have a job, Candy turns to prostitution so that they can continue to score. Dan doesn’t seem to mind this, and they decide to get married. Note that the heroin addicts clean up REALLY WELL. They practically look like movie stars.
Somewhere about here starts the second act, which is entitled “Earth”. Those of you who have studied some theology might be able to infer that things are about to go downhill. That ski slope starts at the wedding reception, where Dan slips off into the bathroom to shoot up, after which Candy tries to pass off his drug-addled stupor as “too much champagne”. Candy’s mom isn’t buying a word of it.
Still, there’s more kissing, more drugging, and more whoring until things come to such a dire strait that Dan decides maybe he should try his hand at male prostitution. Plus, Candy is getting kind of tired of being the only one not wearing the pants in the family. But Dan is unable to follow through, and takes an opportunity (while two other men are having a tryst in a public restroom) to steal one’s wallet, out of which he hatches a devious plan. He calls the owner, and expresses remorse for having stolen the wallet, saying he really only wanted cash (of which there was none) and he wants to return the credit cards, etc. This buys him enough time (before everything is reported stolen) to loot the man’s bank account and credit card for several thousand dollars.
It’s brilliant, and it would have worked if it weren’t for those meddling kids! Well, that one meddling kid. The one that Candy announces is nesting up in her uterus when Dan is trying to tell her about his new cashflow.
Her pregnancy, of course, means they need to quit heroin, and they go through about four days of DTs before Candy miscarries. And we’re not even in “Hell” yet.
However, Act III (guess what it’s called!) isn’t all so bad, really. Go back to those other heroin movies I mentioned earlier if you want “Hell”. This is more like “Denouementatory”. It goes about like this: they decide to move out to the country to escape heroin. They get some methadone, and Dan gets a job baling hay. Things are starting to look up, but Candy decides to hook up with a local junkie for no discernable reason. Dan leaves in the midst of an argument and returns to find the entire house covered in writing, floor to ceiling, lipstick and paint.
Candy is nowhere to be found, and Dan can see the writing on the wall. He heads back to town so he can shoot up with Casper, and he is awoken from his last stupor by a phone call informing him that Candy has been put into a mental hospital.
The whole mental breakdown thing was kind of sudden.
I mean, there was the writing thing and then this scene where Candy pours honey on the floor, but really, the transition from drug addict to mental patient is a bit abrupt and I was left wondering if some material hit the cutting room floor here.
That’s about the end of the movie. Dan comes back from visiting the loony bin to find Casper dead of an overdose, and finally cleans up and gets a job (a real job!) as a dishwasher in a Chinese restaurant. Candy makes her way back to sanity, and one day she shows up at his workplace. She wants to start again with Dan, but he refuses. Their relationship was based on heroin, he figures, and if they get back together they’ll get back to their old tricks. They part ways, and the film ends.
“Hell”? No, not really. I mean, unless you define “Hell” as telling a totally hot chick who totally wants you to take a hike because you’re afraid of a little bitty opiate. That does kind of suck.
All in all, it was a well-done movie, but it didn’t really break any ground in the whole heroin genre. It’s worth a view if you get a chance, but don’t expect to see it on any of the best-of-the-decade lists that are bound to get made in, oh, about a month or so.
Oh, I totally forgot! I noticed during the credits that the film playing during the “no one will be admitted during the riveting television argument” scene was in fact Tarkovsky’s Zerkalo (“The Mirror”), which I believe marks the first time a film previously screened at Cinema 1544 shows up in a film currently being screened at Cinema 1544. The fact that I actually watched The Mirror in its entirety and did not realize this until the credits probably says something about Tarkovsky, but I’m sure I’ll eventually get around to catching up on the old films and review it in its proper place.