1 item from 2001
"MacArthur Park" is a clear-eyed, unsentimental look at the crack subculture at its lowest level. The story takes place in Los Angeles' once elegant MacArthur Park, now notorious for being home to addicts, hookers, homeless and violent gangbangers. The movie penetrates this community to put human faces on the excruciating sickness that is drug addiction.
But as a "drug procedural," the film adds little to other movie portraits of addiction ranging from "Panic in Nedle Park" to "Less Than Zero" and "Requiem for a Dream". As uncompromising as it is uncommercial, "MacArthur Park" will have a tough time finding audiences willing to immerse themselves in human misery in hopes of better understanding how drugs imprison te human spirit.
The story behind this movie is, in a sense, more compelling than the one the movie tells. Actor Billy Wirth, who here makes his feature directing debut, was making a documentary on homelessness when he ran into the girlfriend of Tyrone Atins, a crack addict with a 300-page manuscript he wrote while in jail about his life in MacArthur Park.
This became the basis for the movie's script, which Wirth and others rewrote. Then, a week before production began, Atkins reunited with his son for te first time in 12 years.
The film's backbone contains a similar father-son story. Cody Thomas Jefferson Byrd, who manages to suggest quiet authority even in his destitution) is an aging addict whom other junkies look up to. The former musician talks abut quitting the life and even makes plans with P-air (rap musician Bad Azz) to get him into a studio to record his rap songs.
But nothing much comes of such talk until a surprise appearance by the son (Brandon Adams) Cody abandoned along with his mother ive years before. Learning his wife has died is a splash in his face of bitter reality.
But Cody's daily routine doesn't immediately change. Through him, the movie gives glimpses into the hapless lives of his friends -- his girlfriend (Cynda Williams), te park pimp (Sticky Fingaz), the group's mother hen (Ellen Cleghorne), a con artist and dealer (Carlton Wilborn) and a naive young woman (Sydney Tamia Poitier) attracted to the park's seediness -- as well as a coked-up TV star (Balthazar Getty) who comes y in a white limo to score drugs.
Things apparently have to get much worse than they already are for Cody to abandon his "pipe dreams." And so they do, with a police raid, brutal beatings, several senseless killings and mixtures of coke and booze almost ethal in themselves.
Other than the occasional "outsider" such as Cody's son and a young woman who kicked her habit, the movie is essentially filled with delusional characters. No one possesses any rational sense of the urgency of his condition or the dagers of his everyday life.
The actors are extremely good at conveying this odd sort of naivete with honesty and even a kind of wit. Kristian Bernier's nervous camera and music by Stephen Perkins and SKY that flips between hip-hop and jazz nicely underscoe the restless and dire nature of the addicts' lives.
The movie does end on a note of redemption. But even that note feels tentative.
Worthwhile Prods. in association with
Northshire Entertainment Group
Producers: Billy Wirth, Maricel Paglayan
Director: Billy Wirth
Director of photography: Kristian Bernier
Production designer: Cliff Spencr
Music: Stephen Perkins, SKY
Costume designer: Robin Newland
Editor: Terri Breed
Cody: Thomas Jefferson Byrd
Terry: Brandon Adams
P-air: Bad Azz
Alicia: Cynda Williams
E-Max: Sticky Fingaz
Hoover Blue: Ellen Cleghorne
St. Louis: Carltn Wilborn
Steve: Balthazar Getty
Running time -- 85 minutes
No MPAA rating
1 item from 2001
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