Monday, 13 August 2012

Drugstore Cowboy & Trainspotting

Gus Van Sant 1989 American crime drama tells the dark story of a group of drug addicts, thieves and dealers who travel across the U.S. Pacific Northwest robbing pharmacies and hospitals to keep their habit at bay. Lead by Matt Dillon (Bob Hughes) an obsessed hunter constantly looking for the next score. With a great compassion for; a life on the run and drugs ultimately comes to a sudden epiphany and try to live a clean life. Determined to break away from the romance of addiction Hughes finds himself living a “straight life” is just as hard as giving up the habit but leaving the lifestyle that suited him best. Gus’s Drugstore Cowboy is somewhat an earlier adaptation and American perspective of Danny Boyle’s 1996 British Black comedy Trainspotting. Both films based on an autobiographical novels; Drugstore by James Fogle and Train by Irvine Welsh. Drugstore Cowboy is a brilliant display of addictions, the lifestyle of an addict on the run and the fight of living a sober life. Trainspotting is very much not so far off. Trainspotting follows a group of Scottish friends who are all addicted to heroin. Boyle takes you on a journey of an individual who tries to make sense of life and live a sober life but then trying to stay sober. Both films are set in within a group of friends and within this friend group tells the typical scenario of mates getting high together.

Drugstore Cowboy Gang
Kelly Lynch, James LeGros, Heather Graham, Matt Dillon 
The idea of Drugstore Cowboy seems like its glorifying the consumption of drugs, on the road with your friends and living a life on the run. In some odd way it seems like the best idea. On the other hand the film displays its self as a warning for drug abuse. I personally saw this film in a different light. Yes of course the films narrative structure is based on drugs and in some way a coming of age film. The protagonist however is twenty six years old so the coming age moment has long passed. In my opinion Drugstore Cowboy is a perfect example of someone with an identity problem and each character in the crew represents any gang of friend’s drug users or not. Kelly Lynch (Dianne) is Hughes girlfriend and is portrayed as the character that will never stop trying to drag Hughes with her. Heather Graham (Nadine) and James LeGros (Rick) are seen as the honeymoon stage couple. Nadine however is the most naïve and inexperienced crew member who overdoses.

Trainspotting gang
Jonny Lee Miller, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Mckidf
Trainspotting’s group of friends is very much a similar concept to the friend group of Drugstore. Both films perfectly portray typical friend group on drugs. Ewan McGregor’s character in Trainspotting (Mark Renton) tries to quit drugs but living a sober life Mark becomes depressed, bored with life and feels like he’s missing out. Just like Hughes in Drugstore and Mark in Trainspotting both protagonist have the same epiphany moment to be sober Bob Hughes “I’m going straight” Mark Renton “I choose life”. Both protagonists have their moment of awakening but then their friends or lover try to drag them back. It’s a very typical scene when one friend would want to quit he would see the other getting high and feel like he’s missing out and then fall back into the habit. Just like Drugstore Trainspotting has very similar friends; Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) is the typical friend that will never change and Tommy (Kevin McKidd) is the athlete naïve friend who decides to take up heroin and dies.

Bob Hughes (Matt Dillon)
Comparing both Drugstore Bob Hughes and Trainspotting Mark Renton these two protagonists are very similar and portrayed the same. Bob and Mark’s character arc have the same turning point when deciding to quit with a loss of friend or near death experience.  Both characters narrate in their films and give their personal soliloquy moments. When they “shoot up” the entire film becomes a dream like sequence of floating and the laws of physics don’t exits. Even both films have a none linear structure with Trainspotting starting off in the middle and Drugstore at end. Even though both films have entirely different plots, both films have a very common ground. Yes the main structure is drugs but it’s the friend group that makes these films beautifully realistic. One can argue the reason why these films are so realistic is because both films are based on real events. However personally I feel it’s the portrayal of the friend group that make Drug films so genuine.

Mark Renton ( Ewan McGregor)

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