Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Trainspotting (Boyle. 1996)

"It's such a perfect day. I'm glad I spent it with you. You just keep me hangin' on."


I am already aware of the first thing my blog followers will look for when they see that I have written about Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting. Reader’s eyes will automatically start to scan the review to see if I am the hipster who thinks it is a brilliant character display or if I am the conservative who sees it as pro-drug garbage. Which one do you think I am?

Honestly, I am not here nor there. I have never thought of the movie as pro-heroin. That would be silly. But it has been said that no movie can be anti anything because it will inevitably look cool when a camera is pointed at it. Does Trainspotting make heroin look cool? I do not think so, but I could see why some people do.

To me, it is more about the people in the movie over how they are behaving. The film centers around a group of morally despicable drug addicts, who steal, fight and cheat in the desperate hunt for their next hit. The dialogue may sometimes be pro-heroin – “take the best orgasm you've ever had... multiply it by a thousand, and you're still nowhere near it” – but the actions depicted on the screen are pretty much relatively associated with bad in all cultures. I think the most significant and responsible scene is Trainspotting is the famous bedroom detox scene. Yes, we are distracted by the baby who does the “exorcist” head trick, but we are also caught up in the main character’s pain. I never want to go through what he does in this scene. Therefore, I will never try heroin. Problem solved.

Ewan McGregor plays Renton. Like every main character in Trainspotting, he is addicted to something. His poison is heroin. He makes an attempt at going cold turkey; he goes as far as to lock himself in a room alone with three buckets for urine, feces and vomit. This does not last long as the door is broken down and anal suppositories are secured to provide his next high. The scene that follows is a testament to the dedication of an addict. It is a bit too disgusting for me to discuss.

Renton parades around the Edinburgh area with a small group of junkies who screw up far more often than they get screwed. Tommy seems to be the most normal of the bunch, but suffers the most severe blow at the hands of drug addiction. Spud is a character that seems to be a necessity for any director from Great Britain. His dialogue is nearly impossible to understand. Begbie is quick to brag about the fact that he has never done drugs, but he is a heavy smoker and drinker who will (and does) stab a man in the blink of an eye. I am not positive, but I am assuming that this group of friends chose each other based on nothing more than the fact that they did not have anyone else to choose from. I would not want to be friends with these people. There must be a certain unknown camaraderie that comes with being junkies. They even share a woman – though nobody takes particularly good care of the love child.

That is the most offensive aspect of Trainspotting. Yes, babies die. I understand that a baby in the care of a group of junkies will probably die. But I do not need to see it. These men regard the life of a child lower than they do the usefulness of heroin. If THAT is not anti-drug then I do not know what could be considered to be anti-drug.

If anything in Trainspotting can be considered “cool” it is the usage of Lou Reed’s classic song, “Perfect Day”.In one of my favorite shots from the movie, Renton is passed out in the back of a taxi after taking his “last hit”. This is when you hear Lou’s soft vocals – “you make me forget myself. You make me feel like I’m someone else, someone good”. This is the most emotional use of music in Trainspotting. It is a pretty cool scene.

Other than that, Trainspotting is simply exactly what it is. Friends continue to find each other and focus on ways to get high, make money or have sex. There is an obligatory happy ending, but it seems to be forced on the audience. I like the movie on several levels, but I do not think it is great. If I want to watch a bunch of friends do drugs and mess up, I can simply walk to my nearest public park.

Trainspotting: C+

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