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Mysterious Skin (2004)
Wrenching, wonderful movie...
!!!! SPOILER WARNING -- SPOILER WARNING !!!!
I first saw this movie about three years ago, and was left with a jumbled collection of emotions that included awe, horror, despair, wonder, rage, and hope...
The depiction of Brian as the victim of a deeply traumatic experience was perfect -- clinical psychologists will attest to the realism of the psychogenic amnesia into which Brian retreated following his rape at the hands of the baseball coach (as well as at the hands of Neil, who played a very real part in sexually abusing Brian). There were scenes in this movie that were excruciatingly difficult to watch -- in particular, the flashbacks to Brian's sexual abuse at the hands of the coach, as Neil goaded Brian into verbal and physical submission. One of the saddest scenes in the movie was that in which Zeke begged Neil to touch him, so as to feel the warmth of human contact one more time...
Few people have commented on the parallels between the scene in which Neil was brutally raped by the man from Brighton Beach, and the scene in which the baseball coach raped Brian (goaded on by Neil). I believe that this juxtaposition was central to the plot -- for the first time in his "career" as a hustler, Neil found himself in a situation over which he had absolutely no control -- just as he had forced Brian into a situation over which Brian had absolutely no control. I believe that the horror of this experience -- of being raped by a drugged-up, aggressive, brutal sexual predator -- enabled Neil, for the first time, to empathize with Brian and to understand the extent to which he had hurt and damaged Brian...
Many viewers have questioned whether or not Neil was truly gay -- I find myself amazed that so many people question this, given the numerous examples in which Neil expressed his attraction towards men (including his lusting after the centerfolds of his mother's "Playgirl" magazines, and his masturbating whilst watching his mother's boyfriend having sex with his mother). When he first saw his baseball coach, he described the event (in the voice-over) by stating that "Lust sledgehammered me". Just how dense does an audience have to be, to question what was, in my opinion, axiomatic?
The ending of this movie was both beautiful and incredible. The hardened, cold Neil -- the Neil who had never experienced a truly intimate emotional relationship with another human being -- held and cradled Brian, gently and tenderly stroking him and trying to banish the demons that he had introduced into Brian's life. The hardened, cold Neil -- the Neil who had been described by his best friend as having a black hole where his heart should have been -- hugged and cuddled the boy whose life he had destroyed, desperately trying to undo the damage that he finally realized he had caused.
The ending of this movie was about hope -- hope that even the worst trauma can be ameliorated, and that even the damage caused by the most terrible of memories can be contained. I believe that these two boys would have become friends in real life, and that they would have been close -- whether merely as friends, or sexually -- and would have genuinely loved one another, in the knowledge that each of them had been hurt by forces over which, in the end, they really had no control.
Walk on Water (2004)
Deeply moving exploration of two very different characters
This is a deeply moving account of the troubled relationship that still exists between Israelis and Germans; between Israelis and Palestinians; and between gay men and straight men.
So many heterosexual viewers miss the most obvious subplot, which is the growing romantic and sexual attraction that Eyal (the hardened Israeli Mossad agent) feels towards Axel, the gentle, extroverted, fun-loving, kind, and decent German who also happens to be gay. I have had countless debates with straight men who insit that I am guilty of "wishful thinking" for believing that Eyal fell in love with Axel, although the signs of this growing romantic and sexual attraction are so glaringly obvious to a gay viewer that it is with difficulty and incredulity that I argue this very issue with so many heterosexuals (particularly heterosexual men).
At first, Eyal and Axel are like oil and water. Eyal perceives Axel to be a "pseudo-liberal" and condemns him out of hand for questioning the motives of the Palestinian suicide bombers who blow themselves up (killing innocent men, women, and children in the process). Eyal is the prototypical Israeli alpha male machismo is his defining characteristic, manifesting itself in the angry arguments he has with Menachem (his Mossad supervisor) and in his bellicose, over the top display of anger before Menachem and his colleague upon disclosing the fact that he had been shepherding a "homo" around Israel as he played Nazi "games" with Menachem. Shakespeare's expression "The lady doth protest too much, methinks" gains new traction in this context; Eyal resorts to the most base stereotyping of Axel (typified in his remark that Axel found somebody to take him shopping in Israel), apparently unaware of his own tendency to think in stereotypes (referring to the Palestinians as "animals").
But it is the character growth and development of Eyal that makes this movie a rare gem. For me, one of the defining moments in the movie occurs when Axel and his sister, Pia, sing "Cinderella Rockerfella" together, so obviously enjoying themselves (and each other). Eyal saw two Germans people who he had every reason to hate loving each other and loving life, oblivious to the hatred that others were "supposed" to feel towards them. Pia's disclosure that her Israeli boyfriend left her upon learning that her grandfather had been a Nazi is genuinely sad; nobody is born with a debt (a point that this movie makes without becoming tendentious or moralistic), and neither Pia nor Axel should have had to suffer for the crimes perpetrated against Eyal's parents (and thousands of other Jews) by their elderly grandfather.
There is a scene involving blatant flirtation between Axel and Eyal, occurring in the context of a serious discussion about gay sex, which makes the growing attraction that Eyal feels towards Axel so clearly obvious that it takes an act of wilful denial of reality to miss this attraction. This flirtation occurs when Axel remarks about all straight men being the same the body language between the two men, the tones of voice, and the subject matter were all so clearly indicative of where their relationship was headed that denial of this relationship can only be explained in terms of utter blindness, or the depressing tendency of so many straight Americans (particularly men) to reduce gay relationships to the sum of a number of sex acts, completely ignoring the emotional and psychological dimensions of such relationships. Eyal fell in love with Axel when he first saw Axel in Berlin, watching him emerge from the school at which Axel taught new immigrants basic skills, he had the look of a lovesick puppy on his face There are scenes in this movie that are to be treasured for the manner in which they combine irony with tenderness. The word "achtung", spoken by Axel as he guides the houseguests through an old Hebrew folk dance, would be grotesque and obscene in any other context but the actors and directors pull this off masterfully in this movie.
The conflict between Axel and his mother (Sigrid) comes to a head after the old Nazi grandfather is introduced to the guests at Axel's father's birthday party and this scene is so sad, precisely because it contrasts the stark difference in attitudes between younger Germans, who want nothing whatsoever to do with their national past, with that of older Germans, some of whom are torn by the conflicting demands of family loyalty on the one hand, and justice on the other. This movie reminds the viewer of the fact that Germans born after World War II are all too frequently reminded of the reality that not all older Germans have come to terms with their past, and that old hatreds die hard.
The only false note in this movie was at the very end, in which Eyal married Pia. Throughout the movie, Eyal showed absolutely no interest in Pia whatsoever (although Pia looked as though she wished to devour Eyal on the spot!). Clearly, this ending was tacked on for the sake of the backward yokels in the red states, who would have boycotted or otherwise targeted this movie had it ended where it should have ended (revealing the sexual and emotional relationship so strongly implied between Eyal and Axel).
In the real life story upon which this movie was based, the Mossad agent depicted by Eyal fell in love with, and had a romantic and sexual relationship with, the German brother of the Nazi grandfather, before marrying the sister. However, this ending was poorly handled in the movie the relationship between Eyal and Pia underwent no development whatsoever, and the ending was completely incongruous. The movie was saved from being ruined by the ending, however, by Eyal's account of the dream he had, in which he and Axel finally walked on water. Finally, both characters were able to accomplish this miracle, even if only in their dreams...
Jane Eyre (2006)
I first saw this adaptation in November 2008, whilst channel-surfing during a free afternoon. I saw this movie again today (New Year's Day, 2009) on "The History Channel," and I was glad to settle down for all four hours of this wonderful adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's classic.
From the opening scenes, with the horrible Mrs. Reed and the cruelty of Lowood, this movie captivated and moved me. Toby Stephens (Rochester) introduced a degree of cynicism mixed with world-weariness that was all too believable. Ruth Wilson (Jane) played her role to perfection -- without being a "classic" beauty, she made a profound impression, with her simple gaze and her quiet demeanour and assuredness.
The setting was perfect. The North Tower of Thornfield Castle introduced a brooding, malevolent presence to the plot that resonated throughout the movie. This adaptation succeeded because of the careful attention to detail paid by the editors -- the portrait of the mad people hanging in the hallway, the somber demeanour of Grace Pool, the ominous presence of Pilot at Jane's door, and the cackling laughter that echoed throughout the mansion, all added to the depth and intensity of this story.
Wilson captured the essence of Bronte's character perfectly. Her face expressed emotions with a degree of clarity that could be matched only by paragraph after paragraph of prose. "That look," brooded Stephens. That look, indeed! I have seen many adaptations of this novel. The length of this adaptation made it possible for the movie to track the book with an astonishing degree of accuracy and fidelity. This length enabled the movie to develop the central characters wonderfully, capturing the personalities of both the major and the minor characters perfectly.
The ending was perfect. All of the servants were present (in marked contrast to other versions, in which Grace Pool was killed off), and the portrait at the end of the movie bracketed the beginning with symmetry and closure.
This is a must-see for any serious student of this classic, as well as for the average viewer who merely wishes to be entertained.
Congratulations to all involved in the production of this masterpiece! PHILIP CHANDLER
Loss so great........
I first saw this movie a week ago, and decided to wait until I had calmed down sufficiently to write as objective a review as possible. I realize now that it would have made no difference. If anything, the delay merely intensified the overwhelming feeling of sadness and loss that this movie quietly, insistently, seared into my soul.
At about the same time that "Testament" was released, two other apocalyptic movies dealing with the consequences of international nuclear war were released ("Threads," released on TV in the UK, and "The Day After," released on TV here in the USA). Both movies relied heavily on special effects and depicted scenes of mayhem, graphic violence (a cat on fire as the heat melts milk bottles, for example) and horror that are not for the faint of heart. However, "Testament" beats both movies into the ground -- without a single scene of violence, and without any special effects (other than an incredibly intense white light streaming into a living room through the windows).
"Testament" does this through understatement. The Wetherly family is entirely believable, with none of the cheesy "Aw shucks!" hokeyness that permeated the farming family in "The Day After." Jane Alexander (Carol Wetherly) delivers what can only be described as a stellar performance, as she gathers her three children (Ross Harris, Roxana Zal, and Lukas Haas) around her following the total destruction of the large cities up and down the East and West Coasts. The viewer soon realizes that Dad (well portrayed by William Devane) will not be coming home from his trip to San Francisco. The bombs fell too far away from the town of Hamlin to inflict even superficial structural damage, and the frightened citizens gather around the HAM radio of an elderly man and his wife to find out as much as they can about what has happened to their world.
Slowly, without melodrama, their world turns into hell on earth.
The children die first as radiation poisoning kills them. Before they die, however, the parents, determined to distract the children from the nightmare that they know awaits them all, continue with the production of a pre-school play -- ironically, "The Pied Piper of Hamlin." What could so easily have veered into fatuous moralizing about the evils of mankind (the children, the Pied Piper explains, are not dead; they will return when the world deserves them) is saved from doing so by the heart-wrenching score and by the searing, pervasive sense of loss portrayed in the faces and expressions of the adults in the audience; their applause rings forced and hollow, and the viewer can feel their fear and grief as they look into the faces of the innocents on stage. These children have no futures.
Breadlines form; the supermarket soon closes; batteries become more valuable than any number of banknotes. Food becomes scarce. There is no electricity; there are no medical supplies; the weary priest begs the living to perform all burials "carefully" (the dogs are loose, and Carol's daughter cannot even feed a stray cat).
The scenes that tore my heart involved moments of tenderness. Carol discusses love with her daughter (Roxana Zal), who ends the dialogue with a shattering observation. Carol bathes her little boy (Lukas Haas), who is clearly dying (his bathwater turns brown, and the viewer can see blood seeping through the towel wrapped around his little legs as Carol cuddles him and sings him a lullaby about a nutmeg tree). After a soul-shattering scene in which Carol falls to her knees and cries out for God's damnation of the politicians who destroyed her world, the priest lifts her up and they kiss, softly and passionately, but not sexually. But the two scenes that actually damaged me for days involved Carol's frantic search for her little boy's stuffed bear, and the way in which it was given back to her, at a later time when all seemed lost, and by another little boy who she takes in when his father dies (and whose very name -- Hiroshi -- whispers a warning to the viewer at the beginning of the movie).
Simplicity and eloquence convey pain beyond belief. Carol is seen tearing up bedsheets and sewing; moments later, the viewer sees Carol finish up the final stitches of the shroud in which she buries her daughter.
Robbed of his father, the middle child (Ross Harris) slowly, prematurely, morphs into an adult; an adolescent boy taking on -- and handling -- the job of a man (keeping watch over the house; trying to stave off a thief). Kudos to Harris for the manner in which he makes the most of his role.
I wish that I could write more, but there is a 1000 word limit. With a truly evil buffoon now installed in the White House, this movie may well be more prescient now than it was in the 1990s, when the Berlin wall fell and when it seemed that such utter destruction, thought to be inevitable by many, would not occur after all.
A perfect 10.
The United States of Leland (2003)
****SPOILER WARNING **** This review contains spoilers......
I noted that the official IMDb review refers to Leland as a sociopath. I believe that this diagnosis is manifestly and profoundly incorrect.
This is a movie about sadness, and about the ability of one particular teenage boy to see sadness in daily life, as it lies in wait around every corner, in advance of the unfolding of the lives that it impacts. A sociopath is a person who cannot empathize with others, and who, while understanding the difference between right and wrong, does not care about this difference. A sociopath is a subject who places himself or herself at the center of that subject's universe, with total disregard for the impact that the subject's actions have for those around him or her. One of the defining characteristics of a sociopath is that a true sociopath lacks the ability to feel empathy -- lacks the ability to feel that which others feel, and does not correlate changes in the moods of others as the result of that sociopath's actions with those actions. A sociopath CANNOT feel the pain of others, or understand that the pain of others is the result of the sociopath's own actions. A sociopath is a person who is not completely formed. A vital chunk is missing from the psychological and emotional makeup of a true sociopath, rendering the sociopath immune to "talking therapy" and other treatment modalities that involve human interaction and the exploration of personal feelings. Sociopathy is devastating, even when the subject is treated and placed in a highly structured environment aimed at containing the damage that the sociopath can do to others. Many sociopaths function more or less normally and never raise a blip on the radar of the criminal justice system, although they tend to leave a trail of emotional debris in their wakes.
Leland Fitzgerald is no sociopath. He is a person who is blessed (or cursed) with the ability to foresee what he considers to be the inevitable consequences and outcomes of human interactions. Leland literally sees sadness written into the eyes and faces of people around him, as he slowly assimilates and internalizes the philosophy that life is about loss, and that people slowly succumb to the inevitable and inexorable fact that, for want of a better metaphor, things fall apart. People who fall in love and who kiss and cuddle today turn into "pathetic" elderly couples. The electricity in the eyes of Leland's "mother" (a wealthy New York socialite who loves Leland and who invites him into the home that she shares with her family when he arrives in New York City, alone and determined to remain in the city at the age of 12) fades as she explains to him, on the last of his visits to New York City, that she learned that her husband had been cheating on her all the time, that she got a divorce, that having one's heart broken happens to everybody, and that such loss is an inevitable part of growing up. Her eyes still reflect light, but the electricity that once illuminated them is gone. This scene -- this explanation, late is it is in coming -- is crucial to understanding why Leland commits a seemingly savage, senseless crime (killing the retarded younger brother of his ex-girlfriend). Leland knows what lies ahead for this little boy -- a lifetime of unattainable goals, of being taught only words that signify danger, of never knowing the love of another human being, of never feeling such love, and of never connecting with another person. More than any other character in this movie, this little boy personifies everything that Leland sees as being inevitable and horrifying about the world. Leland's act -- killing this little boy -- is, for Leland, an act of mercy, committed because this was the one thing that he COULD do in a world in which actions cannot change outcomes. Whereas a true sociopath knows that actions can and do change outcomes but does not care about the harm inflicted on others by those actions, Leland does care. What most people view as a barbaric and horrifying act is, in Leland's eyes, the only decent thing that he can do to alleviate the suffering of just one person.
It would be comforting to be able to present this as an explanation of Leland's actions -- comforting, but incomplete. For in the end, "blame" for Leland's actions lies elsewhere. As is so often the case, there are no easy explanations and no balm to apply to the outraged soul. Why did Leland not learn something that even the most pessimistic people usually acknowledge -- that sometimes -- just sometimes -- people DO remain in love, and that relationships DO succeed, and that even the saddest lives ARE transformed? For Leland, there is no middle ground, no inner core to which he can retreat and regroup. There is only pain and sadness. One is tempted to blame his arrogant and thoroughly unpleasant father -- the brilliant writer (played by Kevin Spacey) -- for not being there at critical times during Leland's development, but given this man's thuggish nastiness, that may have been a blessing.
In the end, this viewer was moved by a tremendous sense of sadness. Why was Leland doomed to view the world through a veil of pessimism and depression? There is a maturity to Leland's character -- present, for example, when he repeatedly insists that nobody was to blame for his girlfriend breaking up with him -- that is both stoic and heartbreaking. Stoic, in that it is absolutely genuine, notwithstanding the heated denunciations of Leland's teacher. But heartbreaking, in that it is born not so much of understanding as of despair. Leland's indifference to his fate is merely a reflection of the utter certainty of his belief that nothing really matters. Nothing that he does can change his fate.
This is not sociopathy on display. This is, if anything, its polar opposite......
A Dry White Season (1989)
Dark yet brilliant........ (SPOILER WARNING ---- This review discusses the plot)
This movie explores apartheid and the monstrous injustices perpetrated against non-white South Africans by that system from the perspective of Ben du Toit (Donald Sutherland), a well-respected history teacher of Afrikaans heritage (white South Africans are primarily Afrikaans (of Dutch descent) or of British descent). Ben du Toit is portrayed as a decent, law-abiding man who investigates the death of his gardener, Gordon Ngubene (Winston Ntshona). Ngubene dies in police custody while investigating the circumstances that led to his son first being whipped across the buttocks and then being killed by the police. At first, du Toit merely approaches the police in good faith, politely expressing concern to Colonel Viljoen (Gerard Thoolen) and Captain Stolz (Jurgen Prochnow) together with the observation that human errors do occur, even at South African police headquarters.
With the aid of Stanley Makhaya (Zakes Mokae), du Toit gathers evidence revealing, unambiguously, that the police had tortured and murdered Ngubene in scenes of stomach-turning cruelty. Du Toit goes through profound psychological turmoil as he realizes that the government and the police in which he had placed so much faith were instruments in the service of massive oppression, made all the more personally horrifying in that this oppression had allowed du Toit and others like him to live their lives in relative comfort and complacency, never having to observe the brutality and barbaric actions taken in the service of preserving that comfortable lifestyle, yet alone having to account for it. With the aid of British reporter Melanie Bruwer (Susan Sarandon), du Toit gather sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against the "Special Branch" of the South African Police.
Barrister Ian McKenzie (Marlon Brando) agrees to take du Toit's case, knowing in advance that the case will never succeed. Brando steals the show as he informs du Toit that the law and justice are "second cousins," and that in South Africa they are "simply not on speaking terms." The courtroom scenes are riveting, as McKenzie slowly but brutally exposes the horrifying manner in which Ngubene was murdered. Viewers should be prepared for a chilling account of the state of Ngubene's body as, for the first time during the trial, McKenzie raises his voice and lambasts the "Special Branch" for their handiwork.
Unknown to du Toit, his wife Susan du Toit (wonderfully portrayed by Janet Suzman) had sneaked into the courtroom to watch the proceedings. The reaction of du Toit's family is mixed -- daughter Suzette du Toit (Susannah Harker) and wife Susan are furious with Ben, who is supported only by his son Johan (Rowen Elmes). In a scene that is profoundly disturbing precisely because of the sincerity of her beliefs and the validity of some of the points that she makes, Susan compares life in South Africa to life during a time of war, and exhorts Ben to choose the side of his people. She grapples with her conscience as she acknowledges that she does not believe that everything that the police does is right, bur she is adamant in her determination that Ben must reject the viewpoint of the black majority, even if that means rejecting the truth. She does not even try to hide her racism as she complains about not wanting Gordon's ghost to haunt her house; how she does not want "any of these kaffirs" in her house ever again, echoing daughter Suzette's comments about the newspaper photograph of Ben and widow Emily Ngubene leaving the courtroom ("Pa! You with a kaffir woman! You look like lovers!").
Having failed to bring the government to account in criminal proceedings, du Toit decides to file a civil suit. He is supported in this endeavor by Stanley, Melanie, and his son Johan. However, against the backdrop of approaching Christmas, matters are fast spinning out of control. He is fired from his job as a teacher on the pretext of having missed too many classes. When he dismisses this pretext and demands to know why he has been fired, du Toit is informed by the headmaster that it is "a matter of loyalties." When the headmaster informs him that it would be better were Johann not to re-enroll at the beginning of the next term, stating that the school does not need traitors, du Toit literally backhands him across the face in what is certainly one of the movie's most satisfying moments.
Stanley arrives at the du Toit residence on Christmas Day, stinking drunk. Emily Ngubebe has been killed -- she died trying to prevent her children from being deported to Zululand (one of the "Bantustans" created under apartheid). The Christmas party is ruined as du Toit's few remaining friends leave in disgust and outrage, and Susan leaves the house, uttering the thoughts that had, until that moment, been unstated by so many of du Toit's Afrikaaner friends ("What a pretty picture! A drunken kaffir and an Afrikaaner traitor. You deserve each other.") Events lead to a bitter climax in the remainder of this movie. Realizing that there is no longer time to file a civil suit, du Toit has to find a way of handing all of the evidence that he has uncovered (most of it in the form of affidavits) to the liberal South African newspaper ("The Rand Daily Mail," which was indeed a liberal paper until it closed shortly before the writer left the country). In a scene of searing sadness, du Toit relies on the knowledge that his daughter Suzette will betray him to send the police on the chase of a decoy.
In terms of authenticity, this movie's faults are minor. Flaws in accent are minor in what is otherwise an incredibly sad unveiling of the human suffering beneath the lies; of the savagery that permitted du Toit and all white South Africans to live as they lived; and of the personal cost to those who were brave enough to dissent.
Requiem for a Dream (2000)
More than drugs here......
So many people who have reviewed this movie have premised their review on the assumption that this movie is simply about drug addiction and the depths to which it will drive seemingly decent people. Am I the only person who sees more than a depiction of drug addiction here? Am I the only person who sees this movie as a complex montage, portraying the incredible sadness being old and lonely, and having no real friends? Am I the only person who sees this movie as being about love, both experienced and lost, because the characters who were in love with each other danced to the tune of the commercial world in which we all live; a world in which advertisements for juice and diets without red meat are sold as the panacea that will lead to ultimate happiness? Am I the only person who sees this movie as being about the loss of innocence, as a person who so badly wanted to start her own dress-design business, like the other characters, does not understand that dreams cannot be realized without hard work? Am I the only person who sees this movie as being about the commercialism of all that we hold dear? What, after all, is the first drug to which the audience is introduced -- a drug that the average moviegoer consumes over a period of several hours every day? We see an old woman addicted to TV -- the irony, of course, is that she pays for this drug almost every day by repurchasing her TV set from a pawnbroker in order to feed her own habit, even as her son steals the TV set every day in order to sell it to the pawnbroker to feed his habit. Is this not ironic? Does this not set the tone for everything that follows? Four characters live on the incoming tide of summer, happy in the belief that they will soon realize their dreams: Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn, who was robbed, criminally, of an Oscar), old and lonely, receives a telephone call informing her that she will appear on her favorite TV show, from which she simply cannot tear herself away. Harry Goldfarb (Jared Leto), her son, does all that a penitent son can think of doing for his mother -- which is to buy her a new TV set. An addiction is fed right there, **by Harry*, even as Harry realizes, with true horror, that his mother is on amphetamines prescribed by a script doctor to make her lose weight. Sara is obsessed with fitting into her red dress, and dreams at night of cupcakes and doughnuts before the uppers kick in. Another addiction is stated, yet not emphasized, in this sequence. Am I the only person to see how Sara is already addicted to two drugs -- TV and food -- as she struggles with loneliness and depression? During summer, all appears to be going well for the four central characters. But like all false dreams, these four characters (Sara, Harry, Jennifer, and Marlon) are fooling themselves. Harry and Marlon dream of becoming drug distributors so that they can retire, and Harry euphemistically describes himself as a "distributor" to his mother, even as he realizes, with true horror, that she is on speed. Jennifer (Marion Silver) has genuine talent as a designer, yet falls into the trap of experimenting with both cocaine and heroin -- which, perversely, intensifies the love she feels for Harry. But once again, commercialism is the target here -- quite literally, they find a quick fix to shore up their relationship. The hard work that is necessary to sustain a relationship is never performed.
Then fall is upon them. Harry has increasing difficulty finding the drug, and before she even realizes exactly what she is doing, Jennifer sells her body to her therapist. The viewer can actually feel the disgust and shuddering revulsion that Jennifer feels as she leaves in the elevator and then hurries down the sidewalk -- it is like oil that she cannot wipe from her skin.
Then winter comes. From this point, all is downhill. Sara discovers that the initial feelings of euphoria induced by the drugs have given way to a deadening of emotion -- and she doubles the dose. Harry and his friend and fellow "distributor" (now full-time user) Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) are arrested and thrown into prison. Harry loses an arm due to gangrene from repeatedly shooting up into the same crater. Jennifer is trapped in a stomach-turning lesbian orgy as she sinks lower and lower in her quest for drugs. Harry knows that Jennifer cannot and will not visit him in the hospital, since she is so strung out that she cannot even think about Harry.
Sara becomes totally unhinged, and goes mad. She is portrayed as a horrifying hag staggering down the street and catching a subway to the TV station office, wondering what has happened to her TV appearance. She is hospitalized, in in a horrifying series of searing images, we see her being force-fed with a tube down her throat, being subjected to shock treatment, and becoming unrecognizable to two of her friends, who leave the hospital to cry in each other's arms.
There is so much more to this movie than a message about drugs. What of commercialism -- the belief that our lives can be made better simply by latching onto the latest fad diet, or by buying the latest self-help book? What of TV itself, which we watch every day, and which has replaced living for so many people? What of mindless personality shows? What of living without actually **living**? The final 20 minutes of this movie are so shocking and brutal that I would not recommend that any person who is faint of heart watch this movie. One can actually sympathize with the drug addicts -- they become real people, and the viewer feels their suffering and understands their suffering.