Sex, Lies, and Videotape

Sex, Lies, and Videotape

I’ve got a lot of problems… But they belong to me.

I was surprised that I hadn’t seen Sex, Lies, & Videotape until now, especially considering how much of a fan I am of Steven Soderbergh and his films. This, his debut feature, only barely registers as a Soderbergh film, and really only then after one takes that knowledge into account and really begins looking for it. What is here, and in readily viewable form, is a very interesting and surprisingly frank expose on relationships, if only between the people involved in the film’s plot. It basically revolves around four characters, and how the arrival of one of them interrupts the delicate equilibrium that had been balancing between the other three up to that point. Simple premise, and quite an open one, and Soderbergh thankfully makes full use of it.

Ann is a housewife in Baton Rouge, married to John, with whom she has a tenuous relationship at best. They barely talk, or at least anything beyond the superficial, and they have pretty much stopped having sex altogether, though this may also be because John is having an affair with Ann’s younger sister Cynthia. In enters Graham, John’s old college friend, who comes to town looking for a place to stay before he can find an apartment. John has offered, and it is Graham’s entrance into the dynamic that causes a lot of secrets and repressed emotions to come out into the light, especially when the others discover Graham’s hobby of making videotapes of him talking with women about their sexual lives. The plot is probably even more basic than I’ve already laid out here, with plot developments occurring only sporadically, and then only because they naturally develop after the characters have been interacting and evolving with each other. That’s really what this one is about, and it’s thanks to Soderbergh’s script and the excellent performances by the actors that it is more than enough to carry the film through its deceptively brief running time. In particular, accolades should be (and were) given to James Spader as Graham; at face value, he doesn’t appear to be doing much, but just like the film’s plot, that is in and of itself the essence and skill in what he is doing. It’s the little tics and imperfections that Spader effortlessly interjects into the character’s face and dialogue that makes it come off so natural, and I honestly think it’s a performance that many other actors can watch and learn and take a lesson from.

I honestly can’t believe this won the Palme d’Or; this is way too engaging and entertaining a film for the Cannes jury to stoop down and give the top prize to. It’s actually making me a little frustrated, that other films with not even half the entertainment value of this one could still manage the win, which to me just seems to degrade the actual award given to this one in return. I honestly can’t think of a Soderbergh film I’ve seen that I haven’t enjoyed, and that streak remains alive with Sex, Lies, and Videotape. I’m glad I did finally see this, and I think you’ll be glad if you take the time to see it as well.

Arbitrary Rating: 8/10

The Night of the Shooting Stars (La notte di San Lorenzo)

The Night of the Shooting Stars

Don’t sleep yet.

I couldn’t seem to gather much on The Night of the Shooting Stars before I started it, which naturally made me somewhat hesitant toward the prospects of this one. All I could find was that it was another WWII film, and that there were some fantasy elements added, but that was about it. Now, after seeing it, I understand why there is an apparent lack of info about this one; it basically sticks to the surface level of its story without delving any deeper into what the story could really be. I’ve used the analogy before about how some films are so featureless that they’re like looking at a bare white wall and trying to describe it in-depth to others. The Night of the Shooting Stars is another of these films.

In a small town in Italy, on the cusp of the end of World War II, the German forces will eventually retreat through the village, basically destroying everything in their wake as a final act of retribution against the Allied forces coming to liberate the country. The town has been informed that anyone not wishing to die by either the Germans bombing the town or by the foot-soldiers coming through is to go to the cathedral in the town, which will be left alone. A small group of townsfolk don’t buy it, however, and they defy the 3 am deadline imposed by the Germans to head out on their own and find the liberating American troops that are rumored to be nearby. If that plot summary seems a little too far removed from the actual story, that’s because it is. If you were to ask me the names of the main characters, I wouldn’t be able to tell you; if you asked about the plot developments, I’d point to the above and basically say “that”. This is the highest I’ve ever seen a high concept film; one that doesn’t bother to flesh out its premise into a full story with engaging characters, but instead takes the premise and goes with only that for a solid 100 minutes. It made for a rather unengaging watch, even if it was somewhat of an easy one thanks to the film’s good production work and fairly solid editing. There was one foible I found with the editing, however; the film would occasionally make use of a wipe cut, like from Star Wars, which seemed really out of place and immediately took me out of the film whenever it appeared.

This is an interesting one for me to try and review, especially looking over other people’s reviews of it; I agree with pretty much everything that’s been said, both positively and negatively, and yet, at the same time, I find myself with nothing to say about it. Sure, it’s real, it’s committed, it’s tragic, it’s hopeful, it’s all of these things. But it is also unremarkable, run-of-the-mill, with a production that’s virtually invisible (aside from the wipe cuts), which can be a good thing, but here it leaves the film with no features to make note of. The Night of the Shooting Stars has its place in the genre of WWII films, but at the same time, its place doesn’t seem all that justified in the face of all the other films of the genre. This ended up being another superfluous entry in the list for me, and it was a bit of a shame that I had to wait this long to watch this, as I would’ve preferred to get films like this over with somewhere in the middle of my quest. Oh well, one more down.

Arbitrary Rating: 7/10

Bull Durham

Bull Durham

I believe in the Church of Baseball.

And another baseball film makes the list. It was for that reason alone I was ready to generally dismiss Bull Durham, but damn if I didn’t get a heck of a lot more wrapped up in it than I was prepared for. I find it amusing that the label “that Kevin Costner baseball film” doesn’t narrow it down to one picture, not even on the list anymore, and add The Natural into the mix and you’ve got quite the baseball trifecta going on. Thankfully, Bull Durham gives a different enough experience to justify its own existence, and maybe even its slot on the list, if only barely for the latter.

Kevin Costner is Crash Davis, a long-time catcher in the minor leagues who gets brought on to the Durham Bulls to bring up Ebby LaLoosh, played by Tim Robbins, a hotshot new pitcher with the talent for “The Show” but no skill or discipline to back it up; hence why Crash is hired to straighten him into a real star. Along the way, baseball fan and frequenter of the Durham games, Annie, ends up in a sort-of love triangle with the two men, providing an extra bit of conflict outside the diamond. The plot was okay; it got the job done, if sometimes tangentially, but for my money, what really makes this film is the characters. Crash rarely does what a decent person would expect in any situation, and it became a fun game of “what’s he gonna do now?” with every passing scene. Robbins, usually the slick or studded straight-man dramatic player, here gives most of the comic relief through generally acting like the dunderhead his character is, which was somewhat out of step for him, though you wouldn’t think it watching him in this. I should also give special mention to the soundtrack, which chose damn near the perfect song for whatever scene or scenario it was used in, which provided an even greater bit of surface-level enjoyment to the film. I found it appropriate that the first credit to roll by in the ending credits was the music supervisor for this reason.

The ending did go on a little longer than it should’ve, but that aside, there was a good deal to like about this one. Many have said that there’s more to this than just being a baseball film, and they’re right, but what I especially enjoyed was how every other thing that could reasonably be cited as the core of the film all somehow related back to baseball either way. It’s a baseball film, and it’s more than that, but it was how it was more than that that made it even more of a baseball film; a funny little ongoing loop that I’m sure was the filmmakers’ intent. This was fairly enjoyable, and decently well made, though again I’m not sure the list needs three baseball films on it, but I’ll take it either way.

Arbitrary Rating: 8/10

She’s Gotta Have It

She's Gotta Have It

“I’m everything that you need!” “You are tripping.”

She’s Gotta Have It, Spike Lee’s debut feature, is often lumped with Stranger Than Paradise as being at the forefront of the new wave of American independent cinema. Now, even with what Lee has done since, I still feel a little like a cat being rubbed the wrong way when I opt to start one of his films, pretty much solely because of Lee himself and not because of the films he makes. I will admit; he knows what he’s doing behind the camera, even if he could use some polishing classes when he’s not in that particular position. So, to watch She’s Gotta Have It, even with it being Lee’s first feature, and seeing all the cogs and gears and string that is the finished film, only barely held together, it was a bit of a surprise.

The film follows Nola Darling, and yes, that is apparently her last name, as she tries to live her life in Brooklyn, juggling the affections of three guys, and having fun with her friends, as they apparently only talk about Nola and her relationships with the three guys in question; the film really doesn’t seem to pass the Bechdel test, and if it does it only scrapes by. But yeah, that’s the general gist of the film; where She’s Gotta Have It offers a unique experience is that probably half of the film is the characters talking directly into the camera, as if the film were a documentary on Nola, spouting exposition about her past and their relationship with her as if they were reciting memorized lines, which they literally are. Really, it’s amazing what three short years can do for a filmmaker. In 1989, Do the Right Thing would be an excellent treatise on how to write, shoot, and edit a great film. Here, merely three years earlier, Lee puts together a film with patchwork and rope-ties, with stilted delivery from the actors (including Lee), and a method of shooting shots and editing them together that seemed straight out of a film student textbook. I can see why this gets lumped with Stranger than Paradise often; the two films are very similar, and if you’ve read my review of Stranger than Paradise, you know that isn’t really a good thing. Even the subject matter seemed right out of some pre-agreed-upon list of subjects for independent films to cover; sex, young people living on their own, and trying to find one’s way in life. The one thing I could tell was at least competently done was the script, which I expected out of Lee, but I expected a lot more than that, and pretty much nothing else lived up to those expectations. Special mention should be made to the abrupt switch to color in the middle of the film for a dance number, after which it returns to black-and-white; even though I knew it was there, it still took me mildly by surprise.

I can see the reasoning the editors of the list had when they gave Spike Lee two slots in the Book and gave the other one to this film. That said, I don’t agree with it. If it weren’t for this film’s position as one of the premier American independent films of the 1980s, then this shouldn’t have made the list at all. Much has been said about how She’s Gotta Have It changed how cinema treated black people from then on, no longer as a stereotype but just as intelligent and diversified as white people. I can attest to that; this film is well written at the least, and that it deals with African-American characters is only due to Lee’s decision to do so. But, that’s all I can say about it; at the very least, indeed.

Arbitrary Rating: 6/10

Atlantic City

Atlantic City

You’re back on the map. Again.

Atlantic City was another film I went into with basically no expectations, and yet the film somehow managed to match them. What I found weirdest of all was that this was directed by French director Louis Malle, responsible for Au Revoir Les Enfants and Murmur of the Heart; this is about as far removed from the idyllic coming-of-age stories of those films as you can get. Why he directed this, I don’t know; how the film even got made, I haven’t a clue. All I can say is, for a film as critically lauded as this was, I couldn’t help but feel a little let down.

Lou is an old man and former man of the streets in Atlantic City, who currently spends his days tending to similarly-elderly Grace, who belittles him at every turn, and watching his youthful neighbor Sally wash herself with lemon juice through the windows. Eventually, fate throws him and Sally together, along with a fresh direction for Lou, when Sally’s husband shows up from drifting across the country with a stolen bag of drugs, which he soon divvies up with Lou after finding someone willing to buy it. Trouble is, the drugs belong to the mob, which soon comes rushing back into Lou’s life, amid his attempts to woo Sally. I don’t know what I was expecting with Atlantic City; maybe something a little showier, more akin to Nashville, than the almost neorealist landscape and narrative in this film. I saw a review for this one that compared it favorably to Fat City, and I found the comparison spot on; this film would be very suited among all the low-level neorealist dramas that 1970s independent Hollywood produced, like Fat City. Everything seemed to be exactly as it was found by the production team; all real locations, which the characters merely inhabit over the course of the film, giving bare-bones realistic performances, and being content merely to exist rather than actively trying for greatness. Granted, Burt Lancaster was excellent in this, but that would be pretty much the only actual compliment I could give the film.

This ended up being one of the few films to be nominated for all five of the Big 5 Academy Awards: Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay, and one of the even fewer films among those to not take home a single one of those awards. Frankly, I don’t know how it even got most of those nominations; Lancaster for Actor I could see, but everything else was so middle-of-the-road that it came off as far too unremarkable enough to warrant most of the nominations it got. I didn’t hate the film, or even really dislike it, but there was nothing to it enough for me to say that I liked it all around. It’s a little disappointing that I had to wait until the last leg of my quest to watch this one, but at least I did get it out of the way.

Arbitrary Rating: 7/10

Body Heat

Body Heat

It’s the only way we can have everything we want, isn’t it?

Body Heat is another one I was reluctant to begin, mostly because I didn’t think the film would be all that interesting to me. That, and it was directed by Lawrence Kasdan (his debut in the director’s chair, actually), who I’ll acknowledge as a good screenwriter, but haven’t seen enough good stuff from him to make the same remark toward his directing abilities. For once, in a string of surprise finds from the list, my preconceptions were right on the mark. This is a nice film, and a good (maybe even great) neo-noir, but I don’t think it was for me.

William Hurt is Ned Racine, a lawyer in Florida working during a particularly scathing heat wave. He meets married woman Matty Walker, falls for her, and successfully beds her; they quickly grow attached to each other. Of course, she is married, and soon enough, they begin to make plans to kill her husband to inherit half of his estate. Things don’t end up playing out exactly to their expectations, however, and Ned swiftly realizes how in over his head he really is. Right from the start, the film wants you to know how much this was influenced my noir films of the past, opening with a sultry and seductive jazz saxophone score playing over the opening credits. This film wears its noir influences on its sleeve openly and proudly, maybe a little too proudly; aside from the genre, there’s very little to this one. It’s well made, sure, but nothing to sneeze at, from the acting to the cinematography to the script. Even the noir elements were average at best, especially for a film made in the early 80s. Overall, there was a little too much romantic melodrama, which threatened to overpower the noir elements, and sometimes did. If that sounds like your cup of tea, give this a try, but it just never seemed to be my flavor. Additional side note: I couldn’t believe how much Ted Danson looked like Elliot Gould when he first showed up on screen. I actually double-checked the cast list in the Book to see who it really was.

Body Heat has been called by some one of the first neo-noir films, a label the film tries its hardest to earn, and earn it does. In fact, that’s basically all that this film does, and wants to do; it zeroes in on the noir influences and amps them up to eleven, almost without a care as to knowing why they should be used. It knows how to use them, all right, but there doesn’t seem to be a reason other than, “Well, that’s how the noirs do it”. I can’t really begrudge the film for doing so, but it doesn’t seem to make the film a classic for all time, or otherwise a must see. Maybe my standards were (or are) a little too idealistic, but I expected better from Kasdan’s directorial debut. This has everything a neo-noir lover would want in a film, but for me, I ended the film having continually asked the question, “Why?”, and it’s one I’m not sure the film knows how to answer.

Arbitrary Rating: 7/10

A Fish Called Wanda

A Fish Called Wanda

I love robbing the English. They’re so polite!

I hadn’t seen A Fish Called Wanda in so long, I was worried that what few memories I had of it were too colored by hindsight and nostalgia, and that the film itself couldn’t possibly match what I remembered. Good thing the film was too happy with having a good time to be worried about my preconceptions. A Fish Called Wanda had quite the pedigree, with Charles Crichton as director and co-screenwriter, his partner in writing the script, John Cleese, who also stars, alongside his Monty Python mate Michael Palin, with Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline rounding out the main characters. Is the film ultimately worth the efforts of those involved? Yes, yes it is.

Curtis and Kline are Wanda and Otto, two would-be master thieves and lovers (under the guise of brother and sister) who get brought onto a jewel heist in London with actual robber George and his stuttering co-worker Ken. After the robbery, a convoluted series of events leaves George in jail, the only one with the knowledge of where the stolen diamonds are, and Wanda and Otto desperate to glean the information out of him, even after being the ones who turned George in. To get the info, Wanda decides to seduce George’s barrister, Archie Leach (Cleese), a plan of action that Otto is none too thrilled with, and hilarity ensues as everyone involved tries to get their hands on where the jewels are hiding. Hilarity aside, this was a pretty nice production, in particular the writing and the acting. But A Fish Called Wanda isn’t on the list for those things (though they do help a good deal); A Fish Called Wanda is generally regarded as one of the funniest films of all time. It’s technically a British film, and with two Pythons in the cast (with one writing the screenplay), you can bet your salt that the film will be rife with British humor. Now, British humor can be a good thing or a poor thing, depending on one’s mood and general proclivity towards comedy, but here, it works splendidly. Much of the humor comes from the characters interacting with each other in various ways, and it is here that Kline’s Otto ends up stealing the show, as he is largely responsible for generally cocking things up with his antics. Best of all, I loved when the film would self-reference by using recurring jokes, which I’ve always found to be the funniest kind. Really, there’s so many different types of humor here that there’s basically no reason to not find something to enjoy about this film, as long as you have a funny bone in the first place.

There’s a story, even included on the film’s Wikipedia page (as of this writing), that a Danish man actually died laughing while watching this film. Obviously, since I’m writing this, I didn’t have nearly the same reaction as that man did, but I still had a ripping good time. A Fish Called Wanda, uncommon for a comedy, ended up with three Academy Award nominations, for Crichton as director, Crichton and Cleese as screenwriters, and Kline as supporting actor, with Kline famously winning the award, exceptionally rare for a comedic performance, especially in this day and age. That, to me, only adds to the pedigree I’ve mentioned regarding this one’s credentials. It may not get enough votes to be called the most classic comedy on the list, but A Fish Called Wanda is definitely in the running for the title of one of the funniest.

Arbitrary Rating: 8/10

An American Werewolf in London

An American Werewolf in London

It’s in God’s hands now.

Indisputably the archetypal modern werewolf film, An American Werewolf in London became immensely influential, so much so that Michael Jackson hired director John Landis for his now-famous Thriller video based on the success of this film. That would seem to speak of how good this one is all around, but watching it, I couldn’t help but have a different thought run through my head: if it weren’t for the special effects, this would not have made the list at all. I don’t really know how to put it without being unnecessarily harsh toward the film, but if you took the special effects out of this one, you’d have a substandard werewolf film with basically nothing to go for it.

David and Jack are two Americans backpacking in Ireland when they end up at a small reclusive town nearby the moors. Despite the cold reception they get at the local pub and the warnings given to them by the locals, they set back off and soon find themselves lost on the moors under a full moon. Sure enough, the warnings are true, and the pair are attacked by a werewolf; Jack is killed, but David survives. Soon, he is having nightmares and visions of the deceased Jack, who explains that his spirit is caught in limbo until the werewolf’s bloodline, which now continues in David, is exterminated, and that David must kill himself before he transforms at the next full moon and begins taking his own victims. I could go on a little further into the plot, as the film has about enough of a plot to fill up one of my regular-sized paragraphs, and is still somehow almost 100 minutes long, but of course, the reason to watch this isn’t for the riveting plot. The reason to watch (and the reason this made the list at all, I suspect) is the groundbreaking makeup effects by Rick Baker, in particular David’s first transformation into a werewolf. The makeup effects were so impressive that An American Werewolf in London won the inaugural Academy Award for Best Makeup, so to say that An American Werewolf in London is an Academy-Award-winning film is technically true, though it does imply something altogether different, something that in my opinion would be incorrect.

Frankly, this wasn’t even an average picture all around, and I don’t mean it was so far above it that to call it average would be a gross understatement. The acting was stilted, the script was hackneyed, and the only other thing the film basically credits as its selling point, that it’s a black comedy, is also a failure – I think I grinned at one amusing aspect in the entire film; the rest was just watching poor quality filmmaking try and salvage 30 minutes of plot into over an hour and a half of running time. I don’t even know that John Landis himself warrants a spot on the list at all; this is here for Rick Baker’s work, and for nothing else, and it shows painfully. Bonus points for the makeup and special effects, but everything else was just tawdry at best.

Arbitrary Rating: 6/10

Dangerous Liaisons

Dangerous Liaisons

Love and revenge. Two of your favorites.

I went into Dangerous Liaisons kinda bummed it had taken me this long to get to the film; not because I’d been looking forward to it, but because it seemed to fall under the same sort of criteria that plenty of other films on the list met. It was a period piece, with lavish production value, and a plot that followed the aristocracy of centuries gone by, usually in a foreign country (in this case France). Boy does that sound familiar. Then I started it. The next time I looked at the clock, I was over an hour into the film, and I remember being positively shocked at where the time had gone. I happily watched the rest of the film, and when it ended, I had a big smile on my face. I had just watched one of the last remaining surprise finds (for me) on the list.

Glenn Close is the Marquise de Merteuil, a title and name so complicated I had to check Wikipedia in order to spell it correctly. Not to be outdone, in complicated names or in reputation, is her good friend, pseudo-rival, and sometimes lover, the Vicomte de Valmont, played exquisitely by John Malkovich. Together, they hatch a scheme of diabolical revenge, where Valmont, under orders from Merteuil, is to seduce the young daughter of a friend, who is engaged to one of Merteuil’s former lovers who wronged and embarassed Merteuil, in order for Valmont to take her virginity and thus ruin her as a prospective bride. Of course, Valmont, ever the womanizer and proud of his reputation as such, has his own plan to seduce Madame de Tourvel, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, merely as a challenge to himself and as yet another of his conquests. Things, as they are wont to do, begin to go awry, especially when Valmont ends up falling for Tourvel, and all their carefully-made plans begin to unravel. Now, I had very little knowledge of the plot going into the film, since from what I thought I knew of it, it didn’t seem particularly interesting. I expected it to be a tawdry affair, frit with overindulgence and affluence, with production value exceeding even Merchant-Ivory’s expectations. That’s basically what this has, but imagine my surprise when, not even ten minutes into the film, Close and Malkovich’s characters meet, and almost immediately begin planning things wicked and awful. Intrigue! Suspicion! Seduction! Manipulation! All of these things and more were on the characters’ minds, and the rest of the film became this chess game where their plans either were met, which necessitated the furthering of plans, or they weren’t, which meant a bit of improvisation on their part, which was also a treat. Needless to say, it was when the train of their scheming began to derail that the film really became alive, and you just know that this is going to be one of those films that’s going to end in an absolute trainwreck, but a fully justified and dramatically satisfying one. As for the technicals, what more can be said; they were lavish to the umpteenth degree, but it was thanks to the plot that the excessive production value came across almost as a parody of the genre, and they became that much more enjoyable as a result.

I didn’t get into the acting, which was uniformly excellent across the board, and director Stephen Frears even managed to coax a usable performance out of Keanu Reeves as the young innocent Chevalier Danceny, but rest assured; damn near everything in this production was top-notch, and what’s more, it was top-notch in all the right ways, instead of being top-notch just for the sake of being top-notch like Merchant-Ivory pictures. It was well-utilized, and channeled into a production that was actually worth the time put into it, because of the dynamite story and all the intrigue that came with it. To half-repeat what I said in the opener, I went into this expecting just another lavish aristocracy tale, and came out of it bowled over by what the film had given me; this is so much more than just another aristocracy film. If your apprehensions were or are along the same lines as mine were, rest assured; this is definitely worth the watch, especially if you’re a fan of the seedy characterization and malevolent interplay that basically defines the film. Deliciously entertaining.

Arbitrary Rating: 9/10

Drugstore Cowboy

Drugstore Cowboy

My kind of people, they don’t come down here and beg dope. They go out and get it.

Gus Van Sant’s breakthrough picture, Drugstore Cowboy is a pretty entertaining expose on the life of, well, a drugstore cowboy; a term used by the source autobiography’s author James Fogle to essentially describe himself. Fogle’s experiences provided quite the story, though it might’ve been a little pre-empted seeing as Fogle, instead of going clean like Bob does in the film, would continue his career holding up pharmacies and drugstores along the Pacific Northwest all the way until his death from cancer in 2012. Or maybe the book, and thus the film, was a little bit of wish fulfillment on his part.

Matt Dillon gives a very praiseworthy performance as Bob Hughes, a drug addict who gets by with his motley band of friends robbing drugstores from town to town, so the cops can’t catch up with them. The film basically follows them from score to score, dealing with their interpersonal relationships and how Bob, the ringleader of the gang, seeks to control his operation through superstition and a no-nonsense personality, until something happens that finally scares him straight, which leads him into a new chapter in his life that unfortunately isn’t as far removed from his old lifestyle as he would like. What ultimately makes Drugstore Cowboy work, I think, is the characters, and by extension the actors’ performances of them. The interpersonal dialogue between them as they hopscotch from job to job provides most of the content and the conflict of the film, though there is a particularly amusing side-story in the middle of the film dealing with how Bob takes care of a group of cops who have his place under surveillance. It’s to Van Sant’s credit that the relationships between the characters come off as well as they do, as well as Dillon and the rest of the cast for hitting the right notes at the right times. The cinematography was okay; nothing special, but made some nice use of darkness and shadows when the film’s content would swing in that particular direction. Another special mention should go out to the jazz score, which makes extensive use of the saxophone to give us a “seedy underbelly of America” vibe that Bob and his friends undoubtedly live in, despite the actual setting of the film.

I haven’t seen Van Sant’s first film (this being his second), so I can’t attest as to why this was the breakout film for him as opposed to his earlier work. Really, there’s not a whole lot to this one at surface level, which is usually how breakout films become breakout films. But, and this is the thing with Drugstore Cowboy, if you look under the hood, you’ll find quite a bit to this one, and if I were to posit the one thing that would make this a breakout film for Van Sant, it would be that; that it’s just a really well done film, with standout bits in all the right places. I don’t know how ‘must see’ this one is, but it definitely won’t disappoint should you give it a try. I’d probably prefer Trainspotting and its iconic capturing of the drug scene over this one, but that shouldn’t discount Drugstore Cowboy and all that it does manage to get right, which is an awful lot.

Arbitrary Rating: 8/10