Permanent Midnight

Newcity Chicago

DIRECTED BY: David Veloz

REVIEWED: 09-21-98

Directed by Dave Veloz. Ben Stiller stews as Hollywood sitcom artist and heroin enthusiast Jerry Stahl in "Permanent Midnight," based on Stahl's memoir of the same name. His aggrieved, self-loathing embodiment rises to the jangling prose of the book, while overall, the sturdy work by first-time director Dave Veloz–one of the writers of Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers"–remains on the level of anecdote. The terse, eighty-five minute film is punched through with provocative images and side notes, but seldom rises to the scene of Stahl shooting heroin into his neck in his car while his squalling child rests in the baby carrier on the passenger seat beside him. Rather than seek some kind of atonement for the critical evisceration of his directing talents in "Cable Guy," Stiller has spent the past year acting in roles that strip him of any vanity, and this may be the refiner's fire that finally gets him back behind the camera. There is one moment where Veloz finds a visual correlative for drug euphoria that blasts out of the film's episodic rut: upon first tasting crack with a dealer, played by former user Peter Green, in an unfinished high-rise office suite, the pair take their hits and bound against the floor-to-ceiling Plexiglas windows, bouncing off the horizon. A few repetitions, then Veloz cuts to a helicopter shot swirling past the skyline, the mountains in the distance, the expanse of glass with two insectoid figures sprinting, spurting against the glass and falling, sprinting, spurting, falling.

--Ray Pride

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