Permanent Midnight: Special Edition

January 28, 2012 4 Min Read

Review by: Al Barnes

Plot: What’s it about?

Ben Stiller gives a stellar performance as Jerry Stahl, a writer/junkie who goes from loser to “dead man walking” at the end of a needle. The saddest part of this character is that Jerry is a real life writer/junkie who was fortunate and talented enough to actually find work in Hollywood amongst the throngs of souls whose dreams and aspirations amount to “Don’t call me I’ll call you”. Filmed entirely in black and white, I don’t mean the lack of color but the stark reality shown during every minute of the chronology of a junkie’s downward spiral. A guy making $5000.00 a week (Stahl) or a guy fixin’ in a tenement is the same guy once that needle hits its mark. Not alone on his journey, Jerry bounces from Sandra (Elizabeth Hurley) and Kitty (Maria Bello), two women mysteriously attracted to Stahl despite his love affair with Mr. Brownstone. Hitting the bottom rung in a pitiful scene with his infant daughter while on a serious “jones”, Stiller’s physical portrayal of Stahl is disgustingly compelling…I winced and admired it at the same time.

I’ve been bombarded with action, sci-fi, fantasy and a barrage of special effects that rival the imagination of Frank Zappa and then…bam!!!. I’m hit right between the eyes with a story that brings me back to the reality of quality stories and movies that rely on nothing but a man’s struggle and the people unfortunate enough to know him. Stiller’s bag of tricks include writing and directing but his acting…which I’ve admittedly scene only a small sample…is validated by his portrayal of Stahl who was a major creative advisor on the project. The story, which is autobiographical (Stahl wrote the book but not the movie) benefits greatly from this input…a wise decision by the director.

I’ve commented about some great soundtracks lately and I feel they can be instrumental…remember, I’ve got that license…in the texture of a film no matter the genre. This film uses a carefully chosen sound that amplifies the depravity of the moment. I will be listening to the soundtrack on CD very soon…I suggest you do the same. Last but not least, if this story still doesn’t dull the image of a junkie for you grab a copy of “Dopefiend” by Donald Goines…I dare ya!!!

Video: How does it look?

What goes best with a well written movie void of Hollywood’s magic wand (CGI), Anamorphic Widescreen, addicting in its own right. Sneakily shot in a manner that makes you feel as though you’re in the scenes. Not so much close-ups but close as if you’re standing in the room with the characters…oh yeah, clean crisp images and color (so much for the canned comment)…and when Stiller is rigged up and fixing there is no pan away, it’s up close and personal.

Audio: How does it sound?

Definitely heavy on the dialogue but the fore mentioned soundtrack is worthy of the AC-3 option. By the way the 5.1 setup is hidden in the special features section…a bit frustrating…what’s that all about.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Be sure to check out the production notes, they offer a quick overview of some key points in detail that you would probably not notice in the movie on your own, including the cameo of Stahl himself as the doctor in the methadone clinic…ironic. Commentary and deleted scenes…rightly so…combine with cast/crew bios to finish of a good package.

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