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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Permanent Midnight (1998)

A recovering drug addict (Ben Stiller) hooks up with another recovering drug addict (Maria Bello) and in between sex, he tells her about his double life as a top Hollywood TV writer while descending to the depths of drug abuse from pills to crack. Based on the autobiographical book by Jerry Stahl (who wrote shows like MOONLIGHTING and THIRTYSOMETHING), the film has an authoritative feel to it from someone who's really lived it. Just one example: in typical L.A. fashion, Stiller's character only eats healthy organic foods and runs five miles a day to keep his body fit, all the while shooting junk into his arm. One could laugh at the irony if it weren't so hideously true. Directed (his only film as a director to date) and written by David Veloz (who co-wrote NATURAL BORN KILLERS), his script is better than his direction which is flat. Stiller in a rare dramatic role is quite good though perhaps more effective in the recovering aspects of his character than the full on druggie which he tends to overplay. The story is compelling enough to have deserved a better movie but there are enough good moments to justify its existence. The large cast includes Owen Wilson, Sandra Oh, Elizabeth Hurley, Fred Willard, Cheryl Ladd, Janeane Garofalo, Connie Nielsen, Lainie Kazan (whose role as Stiller's mother seems to have been severely cut) and Andy Dick.

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