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A documentary is a terrible thing to waste and it's sad to say that Off
Label, a film concerning America's dependency on pharmaceuticals and
the growing reliance on substances that are supposed to treat whatever
pain or impairment we have, is a dry and relatively unfocused
documentary. It flies by in seventy minutes, examining several people
who have been severely harmed by drug testing or drug use in the past
years. As we watch these disjointed interviews, punctuated only by a
loquacious anthropologist who gives us insight into the pharmaceutical
industry in the United States, we don't learn much about the subjects
or the industry other than what it is happening to a number of people
thanks to drugs is sad.
We focus on a number of different individuals, many of them once or current "professional guinea pigs," or people that had been offered up at one point or another to take drugs with uncertain effects to show their effectiveness or lack thereof. One of which was a man who in prison at the age of twenty was subjected to such studies that made his fingernails itchy and bloody and created pulsating sores all throughout his body. This was a result of a doctor who would come in and drug inmates, not so much as caring what would happen to them. In 2013, he is still suffering from the effects.
Other people we see are a rock-and-roll couple whose wedding is being funded by money they get for being professional guinea pigs, a mother whose son committed suicide after participating in testing a new drug, a soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, a woman who resides in a Bigfoot museum, and others. Because each person is only examined for a short amount of time, the film comes off as very shallow and impersonal, with directors Donal Mosher and Michael Palmieri seemingly uninterested in extending their message further than a brief cinematic diversion. This is quite upsetting, as pharmaceutical dependency and abuse is a tremendously hot topic, and a documentary on such could've provoked untold discussion (just look at films like Food, Inc. and A Place at the Table and how they brewed up discussion. Off Label will inspire nothing more than a brief footnote. The impact of a documentary like this could've been stunning and astronomical, but instead it's reduced to mostly common-knowledge; drugs hurt people and thousands have become harmed by the side effects - that much we know.
Let's say you're searching for a documentary that examines healthcare in America, and regardless of your feelings about it, you want an informative, enlightening film that puts a magnifying glass to an issue that needs attention. Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare is an elaborate, shockingly unbiased documentary that does just that, and is currently available on DVD. I suggest you choose wisely.
Directed by: Donal Mosher and Michael Palmieri.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film had absolutely no cohesiveness whatsoever. It goes from inmate drug testing to paid guinea pigs who use the money to pay for their wedding, which wasn't negative in any way. There was a story of a army medical doctor who was ordered to do some shady sick stuff to Iraqi patients and now he has P.T.S.D. for all he has been thru. But he says nothing the doctors give him works, and during the interview he is shooting a machine gun and drinking beer. Then there were the overdose stories told from the parents. Some were really bad. A lady said that her son was in a drug trial and the medicine caused her son to almost decapitate himself and open his gut up, But there had to be more to that story because the med was Serequil and I am on that. The show was supposed to be about taking pills when not prescribed to you. But we are half way in before we even get to that topic. Parents start talking about kids they have lost to overdoses, but some didn't even overdose on pills, they overdosed on heroin. So that didn't even fit. Then we get to a Republican congress woman who says she wants to help, well some parents wanted to get a law passed that is already Legal in three states, the law Says that if your partying with your teen friends and one overdoses, if you call 911 to save their life then the police can't search the premises or the people who called. Basically saying, saving the kids life is the most important thing. Because two parents stories ended with their kids either being left alone or thrown on the side of the road Because the group didn't want to get in trouble, because they were messed up and not thinking straight. I understand that Because their lives could have been saved along with thousands others. Well, this idiot congress woman basically spit in the parents faces by disagreeing and saying drug laws need to be tougher. That is the problem already, because it doesn't work, the drug users just get put in jail, where they use, and they get no help in prison for their addiction anyway, then when they get out, they can't get a job because of conviction so they go back to using! That's why America has the largest prison system in the world, and is just getting bigger and the problem just gets worse. The overly conservative just wants to punish punish punish when what people need is rehabilitation. And an end to the war on drugs. We've tried that route for 40 years and it hasn't worked. It's just getting worse. It's time to step back and try something new. If this show has taught anyone anything, it's that nothing we have been doing has been working for anyone, especially our children. And it's time we do a complete overhaul of our views and laws surrounding drugs..... legal and illegal.
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