This post was originally published on August 6, 2014.
Oh, Go—you are, to me, a true 90s masterpiece (“Semi Charmed Life” on the soundtrack! Jokes about Mazda Miata’s!). Directed by a post-Swingers, pre-Bourne Doug Lyman, Go can make any victim of the Comic Book movie 2000s long for the days when indie movies were prevalent. I mean, where else can you see Jay Mohr and Scott Wolf as gay soap actor boyfriends trying to get out of trouble by setting up Sarah Polley to be their drug dealer? Or Timothy Olyphant as the sexiest drug dealer imaginable macking with a pre-Cruise’d Katie Holmes on a stairway? Drug movies don’t tend to be this funny or original but then again, they don’t tend to have Polley and Holmes getting away with selling allergy medicine as ecstasy, Breckin Meyer doing the wigger thing in a way that is (I swear to God) laugh out loud hilarious and a ridiculous Amway pitch courtesy of Jane Krakowski and William Fichtner. Sure, there’s no real drugs-are-dangerous message but hey, drugs can also be gloriously fun (why else would we have done them to the sort of excess we did?). And personally I’d rather laugh at this version than cower at a pedantic alternative.
Speaking of the 90s, this Quentin Tarantino-written, Tony Scott-directed gem stars a who’s-who of talents both still with us (Christopher Walken and Samuel L. Jackson) and sadly gone (Dennis Hopper, Chris Penn and James Gandolfini, not to mention director Scott). Managing to mesh love-at-first-sight, drug use in Hollywood and Brad Pitt as a stoner whose most complex thought seems to be that cleaning products could help clean, True Romance gets us to root for the theoretically impossible-to-root for (a hooker and a guy whose boss got him a hooker so he’d have company on his birthday) while slyly alluding to the less-than-appealing aspects of drugs (cheesy producers need a large coke supply on hand; plus, um, you could die trying to procure them). Sure, this movie is revered by film buffs worldwide but I think it belongs on the list of best drug movies as well.
If you like drug movies and avoided this cheese-tastic James Woods-Sean Young movie from the 80s—well, I don’t blame you. When it came out, it looked terrible. And what’s more, it is sort of terrible. That didn’t stop an adolescent me from being floored by this tale of a high-flying, fast-talking real estate agent who turned into a broke, rambling, isolated mess because of cocaine. I was surprised by the fact that I couldn’t stop weeping after I saw it, mainly because I’d only done cocaine once at that point, which leads me to believe I was obsessed with coke at least a decade before I became wholly obsessed with it. The press on this movie mostly concerned Sean Young allegedly going a little batshit Fatal Attraction-y on Woods post-production but there were some besides me who appreciated its merits (including the late Roger Ebert, who wrote brilliantly about addiction and called it “one of the most convincing and horrifying portraits of drug addiction I’ve ever seen”). It’s not going to be easy to find (Netflix clearly isn’t among we Boost advocates) but if any movie can show the worst side of blow, it’s this.
Like True Romance, this is of course a well-loved classic. But is it thought of as a drug movie? I’d argue it’s more considered the film that put Paul Thomas Anderson on the map, the film where Mark Wahlberg both wore a prosthetic penis and showed the world he could act, the film that introduced us to the late Philip Seymour Hoffman and the film that gave a lot of us a sliver of what the porn business might be like. But to me, more than any of those other labels, Boogie Nights is a drug classic. Is there any scene more frightening to a former coke user than Julianne Moore and Heather Graham inside on a beautiful day snorting lies while talking a mile a minute about taking a pottery class? Or how about the blonde girl who ends up in the arms of a tanned porn star while blood shoots from her nose? In terms of terrifying, those are up there with Ellen Burstyn’s shock treatment scene in Requiem for a Dream to me. And eeek. Remember the drug dealer who randomly shot his gun while rocking out to “Sister Christian”? Yes, the soundtrack is epic and the movie brilliant but Boogie Nights is more effective than any don’t-do-drugs PSA I’ve ever seen.