Permanent Midnight

The Boston Phoenix

DIRECTED BY: David Veloz

REVIEWED: 09-21-98

Drug addiction may be hell on earth, but it's a hell of a lot of fun on the screen. Following in the tracks of such horsing-around romps as Sid & Nancy and Trainspotting is former Quentin Tarantino collaborator David Veloz's high-spirited and acidic Permanent Midnight. Veloz's acridly hilarious and insouciantly horrifying slice of the glitz entertainment underbelly is based on the confessional memoir by high-priced TV writer turned junkie turned reformed memoirist Jerry Stahl, and it benefits from a brilliant performance by Ben Stiller, the reigning sado-masochist on the screen today.

The film begins with a voiceover conversation between Stahl (Stiller) and another recovering junkie (Maria Bello), who picks him up at the fast-food drive-in where he's working out his rehab. Their relationship goes nowhere ("I wish I were high!" he tells her when it ends prematurely), as do the episodic flashbacks he relates to her about his attempts to ease with the needle the transition from impoverished New York writer of serious fiction to overpaid Hollywood hack. The latter horror stories, though, are perversely illuminating, with Stahl's drug-addled, pant-splitting wooing of his green-card-seeking wife, Sandra (Elizabeth Hurley), and a truly awful escapade involving a search for a fix and his infant daughter. Harsh as it is on the drug culture, Permanent Midnight is even tougher on the opiate of the people that is pop culture: a scene in which a high Stahl gets fired after invoking Fritz Lang in a story conference stings. So does what he says in the film's epigraph: "What's the worst thing I ever did because of heroin? Appear on Jerry Springer."

--Peter Keough

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Permanent Midnight

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Permanent Midnight

Film Vault Suggested Links
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