EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|DRUGSTORE COWBOY (director/writer: Gus Van Sant; screenwriters: Daniel Yost/based on the novel by James Fogle; cinematographer: Robert Yeoman; editor: Curtiss Clayton; music: Elliot Goldenthal; cast: Matt Dillon (Bob Hughes), Kelly Lynch (Dianne), Heather Graham (Nadine), James LeGros (Rick), William S. Burroughs (Tom the defrocked priest), Beah Richards (Drug Counselor), Grace Zabriskie (Bob's mother), Max Perlich (David), James Remar (Gentry, Policeman); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Karen Murphy/Nick Wechsler; Artisan Entertainment; 1989)|
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Director Gus Van Sant's ("Good Will
humored, original and forthright
junkie film is his breakthrough
picture. It doesn't preach against drugs, but simply clues us in
through an insider's look at junkies that some folks take drugs because
they enjoy getting high and it gives them an easy escape from
responsibility. Just watching these addled addicts, should be enough of
a reason for most not to go down their bumpy path. Writers Van Sant and
Daniel Yost base it on prison inmate James Fogle's autobiographical
novel (he's serving a 22-year-sentence in Washington state for the
crimes depicted in the pic). It's set in 1971, in Portland, Oregon.
Bob (Matt Dillon), his wife Dianne (Kelly
Lynch), Rick (James Le Gros)
(Heather Graham) are junkies who support their habit by robbing
pharmacies for the drugs and not the money, in a creative way. One of their heist tricks is for Nadine to
pretend to suffer an epileptic
fit on the floor of the drugstore to create a diversion while Bob makes
his way behind the prescription counter
to help himself with as many pill vials as he can carry.
The leader of the gang is the articulate
Bob, Dianne is supportive of hubby except when
it comes to his impotence, Rick is the
dumb enforcer and Nadine is the naive underaged girlfriend of Rick's.
The gang lives in isolation, where they pop pills and inject an
assortment of drugs and choose not to hang-out with other addicts. They
follow Bob's illogical logic and his superstitions, living only to go
from one high to another. Bob's latest knuckle-headed scheme is to keep
them constantly high, as he has them send their stash
ahead of them via Greyhound bus as they wander across the Pacific
Northwest looking to hit drug stores and hospitals. The gang is pursued
by the relentless narc Gentry (James Remar),
who would love to nail the low-lifes.
gritty indie film gives us a realistic look at streetlife for the
unfashionable junkie set. It's a wonder that such a downbeat story is a
fun watch and that it also packs an understated anti-drug message that
probably resonates more than those serious moralizing druggie flicks
and those that romanticize the
Though I doubt if it completely got it right why one becomes an addict,
it got a lot of it right.
was also a gas to see the beat author William
Burroughs in the role of a
junkie ex-priest, who Bob meets at a detox hostel and in his small role
stands out as the voice who articulates the film's offbeat contemporary sociopolitical stance.
REVIEWED ON 5/4/2010 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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