There are also super-high/dream sequences where cows and hats and bubbles float across the screen and Matt Dillon’s face, and there are time lapses of clouds and the moon. But it’s not a pro-drug movie any more than an anti-drug one. The story is too cool and detached to take a moral stance one way or the other. Bob is a philosophical junkie with a talent for spinning far-out aphorisms like, “You can buck the system but you can't buck the dark forces that lie hidden beneath the surface,” and, “Most people don't know how they're gonna feel from one moment to the next. But a dope fiend has a pretty good idea. All you gotta do is look at the labels on the little bottles.” He sees the world as a game of chance, and the druggie adventures form an allegory for an indifferent universe where good forces and bad forces rule in equal degree, where good and bad are interchangeable depending on the angle from which they’re viewed. He’s a great character, and the script and the pacing of the plot make for a contemplative viewing experience that, like the beauty of the images and the editing, leaves you wanting to come back for more.
The acting? It’s not bad, but it’s not the movie’s strong suit. Dillon is good, but not at the level of skill he’s brought to other roles. He has moments, usually when he’s alone on screen in stoned-out reverie. But his co-star, Kelly Lynch, never seems like quite the right match for her role as an addict, and she seems to throw him off his game. The supporting roles, on the other hand, are quite well-acted, especially the character of Nadine, a young, innocent-looking girl played by Heather Graham in one of her earliest film parts. And then there’s William S. Burroughs, who appears late in the film as an aging junkie priest. He’s just great, with his weird, high-pitched, raspy voice, and his bony, hunched-over back. He brings the specter of religion into the story’s mix, and subtly pushes the story beyond the high and lows of a drug life to something that represents life itself. So maybe that’s why the movie left me craving something I’ve never even tried. It’s not the pharmaceuticals and needles I wanted, but rather that something, as Bob said, that people reach for “Something to relieve the pressures of their everyday life, like having to tie their shoes.”
- Joe Miller