Starring Angelina Jolie, Mercedes Ruehl. An HBO production, the true account of heroin-addicted lesbian supermodel Gia, who died of HIV. Some folks I know didn’t care for this so much, but Iliked it a lot (plus I wasn’t worn out on Angelina Jolie’s psycho routine at the time I saw it
Starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jason Patrick. This is the 1991 film adaptation of Kim Wozencraft’s novel of the same name. It’s about narcs in Texas who get a little TOO much into the game and is pretty realistic. Wozencraft really lived this stuff, too, and the book is even better.
Starring James Woods, Sean Young. In this 1988 adaptation of Ben Stein’s book, “Ludes,” the drug of choice is switched from Quaalude to cocaine. Though not a junky flick it is a riveting account of runaway addiction. And who could play an out-of-control coke hog better than James Woods?
Starring Michael Imperioli, Mira Sorvino. A great 1995 flick about addiction, though to crack, rather than junk. Set in New York City, it is really powerful stuff. Michael Imperioli, who is in HBO’s “The Sopranos,” also played a junkie in “Basketball Diaries.”
Starring Ewen McGregor. This 1996 adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel of the same name is nothing short of brilliant. Funny, true and wonderfully realized I thought. The OD scene (to the tune of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day”) is the best depiction I’ve seen. See the movie, read the book, avoid the lifestyle!
Starring Ben Stiller, Elizabeth Hurley. I was not a huge fan of Jerry Stahl’s 1994 book of the same title, and I didn’t quite get the point of this movie, released in 1998. But it does havelots of hardcore junkie business, set in El Lay. I don’t know, Ben Stiller just gets on my nerves.
ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE
Starring James Woods, Melanie Griffith, Vincent Kartheiser. Somehow, this 1999 adaptation of Eddie Little’s novel of the same title went right to video. The book is better, but there’s lots of cool junkie business here so if you like that kind of thing, check it out. Woods is terrific and Griffith drops her annoying little girl act.
PANIC IN NEEDLE PARK
Starring Al Pacino. This 1971 adaptation of James Mills 1966 book grew out of a Life magazine piece about NYC junkies, was Pacino’s first film and is one of the best dopefiend movies ever made. It should be available on video these days, and Encore broadcasts it every so often. Get it, watch it!
SID AND NANCY
Starring Gary Oldman, Chloe Webb. A brilliant fucking film about Sid Vicious, junkie and girlfriend killer, by the director who did the equally brilliant “Repo Man” and then turned out nothing but shit thereafter. The scenes in the Chelsea Hotel are excruciating, and the murder at the end is quite believable.
MY NAME IS JOE
Starring Peter Mullan, Louise Goodall. This brit film is about a drunk in Glasgow trying to get his shit together, but the major subplot involves hapless junkies. Really a great flick and subtitled so you don’t have to struggle with the Scots brogue
Starring Tim Roth, Tupac Shakur. In this 1997 flick, Tupac’s last, he and Roth play Detroit musicians trying desperately to get into a rehab after they think their singer has ODed. Funny and well done and Tupac, despite all that “Thug Life” horseshit that got him killed, was a terrific actor.
Starring Matt Dillon, Kelly Lynch, James LeGros. This is a wonderful 1989 adaptation of James Fogle’s story, published in 1990 under the same title. Dope fiends in the Northwest get over by hitting pharmacies. Very well done, and has a great cameo by the master himself, William S. Burroughs. Directed by Gus Van Sant, who did “My Own Private Idaho,” “Mala Noche” and other good films.
Starring Billy Crudup, Holly Hunter, Dennis Hopper, Dennis Leary. This haunting adaptation of Denis Johnson’s 1992 collection of short stories opened briefly in the movie theaters in July 2000, and so probably won’tbe out on video for a while. It depicts a group of dope fiends in the Midwest in the mid-1970s
THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM
Starring Frank Sinatra, Kim Novak, Shelly Winters. This 1955 film of Nelson Algren’s brilliant 1949 novel was the first post-war movie to break the Hays Code ban on films depicting addiction. That said, it’s a poor shadow of the novel (buy it, read it, it’s always in print) and the junkie stuff is fairly ludicrous (and Winters is as fucking irritating as always). Still, it’s a classic and worth checking out. Otto Preminger directs.
Starring Peter Weller, Judy Davis, Roy Scheider. If anyone could turn Wm. Burroughs’ phantasmagorical ur-junk novel into a movie, Canadian director David Cronenberg is the man. Though not depicting junk use, per se, it is ALL about addiction, or the Algebra of Need, as Burroughs termed the phenomenon. All in all, a remarkable translation of Burroughs’ world into a visual medium.
THE BASKETBALL DIARIES
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Bruno Kirby. I was not a huge fan of this 1995 film, but then I don’t think that much of the Leo the Great as an actor. But, then, I was not as impressed as I might have been by Jim Carroll’s 1978 book on which this is based. I do realize though, that Carroll is for a later generation what Burroughs was for the ’60s: The addict-artist who made us know that we just had to shoot some dope! For all it’s faults, this flick is worth looking at.
Starring Joe D’Alessandro. Directed by Paul Morrissey is one of the Andy Warhol’s Factory product: a young D’Alessandro plays an addicted gigolo and we see him having sex with older women, shooting dope, fighting with the Social Security people and shooting dope again. The makers of this movie guarantee that the times we see Joe sticking a needle in his arm he was REALLY shooting heroin!! Not a beautiful movie but very, very, sixties….
Starring directed by Alan Parker. Not specifically on dope…great success when it came out. It’s the stoty of a young american that goes to Turkey, tries to smuggle some hash, is caught and taken to an hellish prison. It’s worth to see even just for the first few minutes, when the guy, heart pounding, tries to board the plane and the border cop put his hand on his chest, right where the pounding heart is..for those of you who has tried once to bring some “souvenir” home and didn’t know if to look the cop in the eye or not…..there’s also an old junkie in the prison and he is the one who goes to a bad end…
Starring Jennifer Jason Leigh. Not a beautiful movie but a) Jennifer Jason Leigh: she really looks like a real dope fiend b) the soundtrack is absolutely smashing: she sings with alittle voice some great songs by Lou Reed/Velvet Underground, Van Morrison and the beautiful “Almost blue” by Elvis Costello. The story is about the struggling relationship between two sisters, the straight and serious minded Georgia( played by Mare Winningham, is she famous BTW?), folk-singer of big success and poor, desperate and out-of-tune punk-rock singer Sadie, heavily into booze and dope. A scene hit me full force: when she tries to board a plane barefooted and during withdrawal and of course they wouldn’t let her in…
Starring Ally Sheedy, Radha Mitchell. Besides being about lesbian photographers in the downtowny New York scene, this 1998 flick is also a pretty accurate portrayal of a particular sort of uptowny, snorting-only circle of heroin users. I thought it was a bit of cliche that the main character had to OD at the end, but that shit does happen. All in all, a pretty good movie.
Starring Todd Field, Jason London. Released in 1998, this film may have gone straight to video or been made for cable, I don’t know. But it is one of the best dope fiend flicks I’ve ever seen. Jason London is a young paramedic, with a shady past, who moves to L.A. and hooks up Todd Field, a corner-cutting junkie ambulance driver. London’s descent into addiction and corner cutting of his own is spot on, and the depiction of the tweaker woman living next door is sad and hilarious at the same time. Maybe it was just my mood when I saw it, but besides being very realistic, I also found this film quite moving.
Starring Martin Neufeld, Pascale Montpetit. Two heroin addicts nail themselves into their apartment and stuggle to withdrawal cold turkey.
Interesting interaction as they learn about themselves, each other, and why they’re where they’re at.
I do remember being much sicker than the characters when I attempted to go cold turkey but all in all an interesting movie
add to list: black tar diaries: the dark end of the street, union square, rules of attraction, Cristina F. , pulp fiction, killing zoe, less than zero, requim for a dream, and some others I am forgetting