Dec 4, 2008

Wiwille's movie reviews part 66

Addiction is a difficult subject to capture on film. It's difficult for many to sympathize with a character who can't seem to set aside their habits and often they come across as nihilistic, self absorbed, and weak willed. Still for all of Hollywood's efforts at detailing the nature of an addict sometimes they get it right.

'Less than Zero' was a movie recommended to me many times, but I never made an effort to view it for whatever reason. I'm a fan of Robert Downey Jr, but yet I put off what is known to most as his finest role. Thankfully I have this little blog to help motivate me to watch films I otherwise would have never seen.

Based on a Brett Easton Ellis novel the movie takes place in southern California and centers around the lives of three rich youths. The story starts with them graduating high school and playfully planning their futures. Cut to less than a year later where Clay, the moral center of the three, is off at MIT and gets a phone call from Blair, the girl that scorned him by sleeping with his best friend Julian. She begs him to come home for the Christmas break, but cuts the conversation short.

Clay returns home to find Blair being absorbed by the culture of celebrity. A model and part time coke addict her main concern is for Julian, a former record producer who dove headfirst into drugs. Clay feels overwhelmed with the direction his friends have taken. His beloved seems to ignore her own issues as his best friend is spiraling out of control.

Julian displays all the features you would expect from an addict. He's a charming young man who cons his way in and out of rehab, his father's home, and credit to support his habit. Constantly under the watch of his dealer, who he owes a great sum of money to, Clay and Blair seem to be the last of those who believe in him and genuinely want to take care of him. The two get frustrated with trying to keep him clean and often times find themselves victims of Julian's criminal activities, but still they cling to the belief that he'll heal.

This is a tragic tale of selfish rich kids with too much money and time and not enough love or direction. As with most tales of this nature the real victims of addiction isn't the one who struggles with drugs, but the people who love them.

While the film kind of misses the mark regarding Ellis' use of culture being one of the main proponents of self absorbed behavior the movie is worth a look for the acting alone. Robert Downey Jr is excellent as the drug addled Julian. James Spader plays the dealer Rip with a cold nature that comes off kind of frightening. The cinematography is really good as well. Given the movies faults I still would recommend this.

Thanks to Kelli for submitting this. Wanna see a film reviewed by Wiwille? Drop me an email or comment and you'll see it soon on Erik's Ramblings. Rules are posted here.

"A startling tale of alienation and self-destruction." - Widgett Walls


Anonymous said...

I'm always hesitant to watch a movie about addiction starring an addict. Often, I hear or read reviews of such performances as great. But is it actually acting? Is Robert Downey Jr. acting when he plays a drug addict? Being a drug addict (or an ex-drug addict), by playing an addict in a movie, isn't he just answering to a different name?
Take Courtney Love's role in the Larry Flynt movie for example. She was given kudos for her performance in that movie. She wasn't acting. She played a sexually insatiable drug addict who married somebody with success and talent. What's the diff?

Kelli said...

Thanks for reviewing the movie. It is one of my favorite 80's flicks. There are so many instances where the characters seem to be forced to choose between ethics/morality and love for another human being. James Spader (Rip) is a character that you love to hate ... and the guy playing his henchman-- I can't tell where he gets the most joy ... beating up Julian or pimping him out.

Thanks again!

Miss Ash said...

Hmmm you know I read the book years ago but completely forgot all about the movie. I think I'll stick with the book.