Spoiler Warning

Always assume Spoilers and possible profanity in context. These are often adult themed movies.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Drugstore Cowboy

Drugstore Cowboy is the story of Bob (Matt Dillon) and his group of friends/partners in crime and addiction. Most important to him, is his wife, Dianne. The two have been seeing each other since they were kids, developing a system together to exist in the world. Her role is usually backing up his reasoning or pulling him back to reality if he's talking too crazy. This system relies on drugs, the glue that holds their relationship together. They share addiction and so are partners in the robberies that feed it. When we first meet them, robbery is approached as mundanely as any day job. This is what they've always done, and they've never tried another way when they could help it (or, as long as they're not in prison.)

Bob and Diane have another couple working with them, Rick, a quiet guy who enjoys the camaraderie  and sees no need to "rock the boat" as long as the scores are keeping him happy, and Nadine (Heather Graham) the youngest of them, a troubled girl who resents everything that Bob does, especially giving her a smaller cut than himself from every job based on her contribution and the fact that she has a comparatively low tolerance. Bob is the head of the crew and isn't bashful about acting like it.

They function pretty efficiently at the start. We see one of their jobs in action, Nadine fakes a seizure at a pharmacy, giving Bob a chance to get behind the counter and grab everything that he can. Then they're off to their temporary rented room to split things up. Everything goes off without a hitch, the system at it's peak. Of course, as Bob soon reminds Dianne, "It's like a crap game, when you're hot you shoot everything, you shoot the works, when you're cold you lay off a bit." The trouble they have like any serious gambler, is that they're incapable of quitting while they're still ahead. They'll try to beat the house until they lose enough that they have no choice but to sit back awhile. The idea of "Luck" is a huge part of the film, most obviously in Bob's fear of "hexes." Bob and Dianne have a talk about their luck and she points out that there were plenty of times when what seemed like bad luck was actually good luck, like a flat tire keeping them from getting busted. Certainly, in the film, you could say they have some luck going both ways. An elderly neighbor luckily tips them off to police surveillance, possibly preventing them from bringing home the spoils of a heist and serving some serious time. Bob uses the information to "teach a lesson" to the cops, which only results in a build up of enmity and another serious enemy. If they had used the information more wisely, perhaps it would seem like better luck, but Bob's nature requires him to push his luck. Just like his drug habit, he doesn't know there's any other way.

Certainly, Bob would say he was lucky to stumble across a closed Pharmacy on the road, that scored them some Dilaudid. But if that job hadn't happened, Nadine wouldn't have had that particular fit, felt compelled to put a hat on the bed, or had the opportunity to keep some for herself, or end up left alone to OD with it. Of course we can reason that it could as easily have happened later, and that's true. This makes luck only the result of selective hindsight, and how far back it extends. If you kept the chain of events going long enough you could certainly find many variations of bad to good to bad to good, depending in large part on your bias when examining the events. Even Nadine's death, could be made to look like "good luck" if the intended outcome was getting Bob to clean up. All the possible variations you could read are no doubt baffling. Luck is just another word for "the unpredictable." which seems to be the problem that plagues Bob more than any other. To Bob, every day life is not knowing what will happen next. As he mentions at the end, "See, most people, they don't know how they're gonna feel from one minute to the next, but a dope fiend has a pretty good idea. All you got to do is look at the labels on the little bottles." Having very little control over "what happens" his drugs give him control over how he feels about it. But, of course, he hasn't worked out how to be high twenty four hours a day as this would leave him unable to procure more supply.

While "DrugStore Cowboy" is very much about drugs and problems related to drug addiction, it never comes across as a PSA type movie. Bob and many others have drug related troubles, but the problem pointed to is life as much as it is drugs. Gentry doesn't want to arrest Bob and his crew for possession, he wants them for robbery, even feeling that a possession charge isn't worth his effort. ob isn't just into "drugs" as he tells the worker at the Methadone clinic. "Look, lady, I'm a junkie. I like drugs. I like the whole lifestyle, but it just didn't pay off." He likes being against the system, not having to work for a living, being in charge of a crew, and even a sense of family from having his crew around him." Yet, he knows, as far as luck goes that his lifestyle is a losing bet. He admits in the opening "But I guess deep down, I knew we could never win. We played a game you couldn't win, to the utmost." He feels more empowered the longer he makes the losing bet pay off, but eventually it has to end. Certainly finding one of your crew dead after barely escaping arrest, and then having to get her body into your trunk while all the attendees of a Sheriff's convention watch could easily provoke some self examination about the value of your hand.

Yet, we see Father Murphy elderly and unapologetic about his addiction. He takes methadone as a matter of practicality. He's not a robber like Bob and doesn't have the income to support his habit. He resents the idea that drugs are "demonized." As he tells Bob, "The idea that anyone can use drugs and escape a horrible fate is the method of these idiots. I predict in the near future. right wingers will use drug hysteria as a pretext to set up an international police apparatus." Although some may feel that Father Tom lives a horrible fate, he doesn't seem to agree. Most of the junkies we meet here don't meet horrible fates withing the time that the movie occurs. Even Bob, who is shot at the end, is hoping they can keep him alive. Whether the shooting was bad luck or good luck, will likely depend on what happens next.  Nadine met a horrible fate, but Rick and Dianne just keep going the way they always have. We don't know what will happen to any of them, and that I think is the point. While drugs here come across as problem causing, they're not the only problem, but an inadequate means of dealing with bigger problems. While this movie isn't an anti drug PSA, neither is it a pro drug PSA. The drugs are a problem, the same way that robbery is, it may be a means to an end but there are penalties attached. Rather than sermonizing we see these characters at a particular point in time and draw our own conclusions from them. Other than one pointed barb at the ridiculousness of government drug wars, (done via that one character,) there's no attempt at a solution.

Matt Dillon was a perfect choice to play Bob, as he's played similar characters many times, the rebellious outsider, who is outwardly brash but more sensitive than he would like, could be the evolution of the characters he played in the S.E. Hinton adaptations, only without the safety net or resolution those stories typically offered. He's convincing as a guy who has absolutely no idea what he's doing, but is very good at faking it. He also projects a kind of decency that makes it hard to tune him out even when he's doing the dumbest imaginable. We're happy when he straightens out, but it's too much to ask, that his past has no consequences. He constantly reasons everything out, trying to put two and two together. It's ok, that he was shot, he rationalizes, because he had to pay his debt to the hat. However, it's as likely that he was shot because he humiliated David, or simply because he knows David, who happens to be leaning toward psychopath, with the knowledge that Bob always has drugs. We can't say for sure, as usual there are too many variables. If one thing had gone differently, if he hadn't given Father Murphy the drugs then perhaps he would've been spared. But then, perhaps Bob would've tried to keep them anyway to spite David. We can't know any more than we can know if the hat on the bed was a hex or a sign, or just something that happened with no significance at all except to provide an explanation when things went bad.

Kelly Lynch is also terrific. Her Dianne, despite her drug problem is perhaps the strongest character in the film. She has no interest at all in stopping her addiction. She loves drugs more than anything. As Bob says , "Dianne was my wife. I loved her. Yeah, and she loved dope, so we made a good couple." The rapport between Dianne and Bob is very effective, and we can believe they've been together their whole lives. While she typically agrees with Bob, her opinion has as much weight as his when she disagrees. In their final scene together, while they're not reuniting, you can see the history between them. These are people that know each other very well, and will always have concern for each other, whether it's useful or not is irrelevant. We see that while she doesn't understand what Bob is doing, she is happy for him in a way.James LeGros does a fine job as the sidekick, competent enough, but comfortable in Bob's shadow. Heather Graham gives a terrific performance. her brief time on screen has drastic effects on everyone. She's the "hat" character, bad luck for everyone and utterly unpredictable. Her problem with authority is as deep as Bob's but more overtly self destructive. James Remar is the most satisfying surprise though. His portrayal of Officer Gentry, and his back and forth with Bob, tells us much about the character. While he is determined to arrest Bob, he is also legitimately concerned for his welfare. Bob and Dianne are a part of his world, and while they're adversaries, much like Bob's mother, he doesn't hate them, as much as he wants them to wise up. He's a remarkably full character for the little time he's on screen.

It shouldn't be a surprise that was a breakthrough film for Gus Van Sant, as it's a truly remarkable film. The decision to tell the story strictly through the characters and what happens to them is a brave one and brought out fantastic performances. The settings seem natural and suited to the character's lifestyles, not calling attention to the shots but adding to the film nonetheless. The different rented rooms and the different styles of pharmacies, show us that despite a regular method there's a lot to know in this world. Things are dirty but not always dark, just like Bob's belief in luck, which provides hope until it doesn't anymore.

"Drugstore Cowboy" is based on a semi autobiographical work of James Fogle, whose novel cam out after the film was popular. While in my opinion, a film is a completely different animal than a novel it's based on, it should be noted that while Fogle created memorable characters, he never succeeded in going straight, dying in prison at 75 years old while serving a 16 year sentence for robbery. Whether that's a statement on the power or drugs, or just the unfortunate circumstances of one man's chosen actions is your call. I don't know enough about him to say anything conclusively, other than the fact that some people have a hard time dealing with life, and in this case drugs and robbery ended with prison. Whatever similarities they had, he wasn't Bob from the film. Who knows what happened to him? At least we have an interesting story to talk about. That's one of the great things about good film, it often outlasts the inspiration that started it and even if it does nothing to solve a problem, looking at what it does is a good start. People still take drugs, and even get irrevocably hooked on them. As Bob said,  "Nobody, and I mean nobody, can talk a junkie out of using. You can talk to 'em for years but sooner or later they're gonna get a hold of something. Maybe it's not dope, maybe it's booze, maybe it's glue, maybe it's gasoline. Maybe it's a gunshot to the head. But something, something to relieve the pressures of their everyday life, like having to tie their shoes." That's as true now as it ever was, although sometimes drugs end up being "the" problem, they're typically just another failed attempt a solution, the illusion of control at least for a short while. People will do anything to believe they have some control over the game.

"DrugStore Cowboy" is not a film that will entice anyone to be a junkie, but neither will it convince you that life is easy or predictable, junkie or no. The junk is the vehicle that puts these characters where they are, the thing that helps bind them and at other times helps drive them apart. It's a system that's a lot like luck, you can try to figure it out but it changes every time you look again. Bob says "You can't buck the dark forces that lie hidden beneath the surface, the ones some people call superstitions, howling banshees, black cats, hats on beds, dogs, the evil eye."  There's so little we can predict, and I'm sure anyone can understand wanting a life that's more predictable or fair. Certainly avoiding robbery and drug habits would seem a step in that direction, but it isn't entirely a logical problem and certainly an addict doesn't always see a choice. I'm sure everyone knows someone addicted to something, and none of them set out to be addicts. Bad things can happen to us all, drug problem or no, hat on the bed or no. Drugs are popular for a reason, because life can be hard to cope with. Eliminating everything that has obvious negative consequences may not even be possible. People are more complicated than that. I don't know if there's an answer to coping with life, but we do what we can, sometimes it works, others not so much. While I'm not superstitious, and can see superstition as a justification,  I won't throw a hat on the bed just to try my luck. "DrugStory Cowboy" is a great look at some very real characters, trying to figure it out, without the best skills to do so.

What Happens?

We open looking at Bob (Matt Dillon) our main character laying in an ambulance looking pretty rough. He narrates over nostalgic home video: "I was once a shameless full-time dope fiend. Yeah, me, Bob, the sweet Mother's son. Me and my crew robbed drug stores. I had done 'em all, up and down the Pacific Northwest, with pharmacies opened or closed. It didn't matter, except the technique. But, don't get the idea it was easy. It's hard being a dope fiend, and it's even harder, running a crew. Dianne (Kelly Lynch) was my wife. I loved her. Yeah, and she loved dope, so we made a good couple. Whenever I got out of the joint I always ended up with Diane. Rick (James LeGros) was my sidekick, my muscle. He was no novice to the life of crime. His record showed a steady climb from juvenile offender to small time thief. He was gonna do just fine. Nadine (Heather Graham) was Rick's old lady, a counter girl he'd picked up doing one of our jobs. She was a piece of work. She had no record, just a smile that caught us all a little off guard. I was the undisputed leader then. I carried the whole goddamn outfit on my back like it was my own newborn son. But I guess deep down, I knew we could never win. We played a game you couldn't win, to the utmost."

We then move to "Portland Oregon, 1971" as Bob walks into a drug store, followed by the rest of his crew at intervals as if coming in independently. Nadine fakes a seizure and Bob runs into the pharmacy now unattended grabbing everything he can while Dianne and Rick try to keep the pharmacist busy. Bob leaves through the back and the others exit like customers, including Nadine who just gets up from the seizure. Bob fixes himself up on the drive home, which Dianne complains about since the rest of them wait until they get home. Bob tells us about getting high saying "as long as it lasted, life was beautiful." They get into their apartment instructed by Bob to "act cool like you just got back from church." They're noticed by the young neighbor, David, who's sitting on his porch. Once inside they all shoot up, with Nadine complaining because she doesn't get the same amount as Rick. Bob tells her that "you don't do shit. It's me taking the big risk." Nadine counters that Diane doesn't do anything either, causing Dianne to tell Bob to kick her out and give her nothing. Rick calms things down, as there's a knock on the door. The knock is David from next door. Bob and Rick greet him with guns to his head before letting him in. He tells them he has some crystal methedrine. He reasons that they'll all fix up on speed and hit a big pharmacy, as he tells Dianne, "It's like a crap game, when you're hot you shoot everything, you shoot the works, when you're cold you lay off a bit." Dianne tells him if he's so hot, he should make love to her, a suggestion he nonchalantly dismisses.
After talking with Dianne, Bob trades him some Morphine for the crystal methedrine, while Rick and David make a secret deal for a television. Bob fools David by taking advantage of his poor math skills, but Nadine corrects them, causing Bob to chew her out afterwards.

We see the police investigating the pharmacy robbery, headed by Officer Gentry (James Remar) while Dianne digs a hole outside to hide the drugs. Dianne attempts a seductive dance for Bob, who has no interest in sex, more taken with planning the next job. She encourages him to take a break since the last job went so well, but he convinces her to go do the job instead. Their conversation is interrupted by Gentry and other officers busting in the door. Gentry obviously knows Bob and scolds him for doing it again, while his men trash the place looking for drugs. Gentry and Bob discuss golf  a bit as well. Gentry tells Dianne, "You didn't hide the drugs in some stupid place like inside the Frosted Flakes again, have you?" The search is very thorough and destructive, but they find nothing. Sitting in the trashed apartment, Bob says "I love cops. If it wasn't for hot shit cops like Gentry around, the competition would be so heavy, there'd be nothing left to steal."

Bob tells Rick to rent them another apartment, while they go his Mother's house for some clothes. She greets them by calling them "the dope fiend and his nymphomaniac wife." She refuses to let them in the house, berating him for his lifestyle. Bob manages to squeeze past her, and on the doorstep, Dianne asks her "What have we ever done to make you hate us so?" She responds "I don't hate you, Diane, and I don't hate Robert either and the good Lord knows that to be the truth. I truly feel pity for you both. You are grown up now, and yet you still act as children who want to do nothing but run and play. You cannot run and play all your life Dianne."

Bob checks out the place Rick rented, and the four of them get settled in. Nadine asks if she can get a dog. Bob adamantly refuses and Dianne tells them about the last dog they had, who ran away when the cops were after them and then finding his way back home led the cops to Bob and Dianne. Bob tells Nadine that by mentioning dogs she's put a 30 day hex on them. Rick complains that Bob never told them not to mention dogs. He tells Rick that if he mentioned dogs to tell them that would've been a hex itself. Rick asks if there's any other hexes they should know about. He tells them "hats, okay, hats. If I ever see a hat on the bed in this house, you'll never see me again, I'm gone." He adds, "Mirrors, never look at the backside of a mirror, because when you do, it'll affect your future, because you're looking at yourself backwards. No, you're looking at your inner self and you don't recognize it because you've never seen it before. Anyways, you can freeze into motion, your future, and that could be either good or bad, in any case, we don't want to take any chances. The most important thing is the goddamn hat, a goddamn hat on the bed is the king of them all. Hell, that's worth at least 15 years bad luck, or even death. I'd rather have death because I couldn't face a fifteen year hex." Dianne eagerly backs him up. Rick looks fascinated and Nadine seems disgusted with the lecture.

Later that night, we see Gentry and another cop in a pick up track with a camper in back, watching Bob's apartment. The other cop urges him to just storm in, but Gentry tells him "I don't want to get Bob Hughes on a bullshit possession beef, cause that's all we're going to get him on unless we catch him cold on his way home from a score." There's a knock on the door and an elderly woman complains about a sinister looking man with a ladder outside her window. Bob assures the lady he'll check it out. They quickly assume that Gentry followed them and resolve to teach him a lesson. Bob writes a note indicating that he has an arrangement with the next door neighbor to hide drugs. He also tells the neighbor that there's a creepy looking guy around making "sick" gestures beneath his coat while standing on a ladder, causing the neighbor to be concerned about his daughters. He tells Bob, "I'll shoot the son of a bitch in the balls." That night when Gentry and his partner take out the ladder, the neighbor grabs his shotgun (while Bob and the crew are watching) and blasts Gentry's partner. The next day, we find Gentry with several officers waiting for Bob. Gentry tells Bob that they know he set them up, and are "anything but happy about it." He suggests that Bob take off and go far away from them. Bob tells Gentry that "I won the war." and tells him he doesn't make the terms. The officers punch Bob a few times before leaving.

They decide to leave town anyway, sending their drugs ahead by bus to different stations to pick up as needed, as well as putting a hole through the car floor boards so they could dump what they had on them if pulled over. They buy a pickup truck to blend in with their surroundings. They stop to rob a pharmacy after hours when it's closed and then set up in a hotel. Bob is ecstatic that they picked up an 1/8 ounce bottle of powdered Dilaudid, worth over $8,000.00 although he can't find the second bottle. Bob cautions Rick, "This stuff can kill ya." before fixing him up with it. Nadine secludes herself in her room. upset that Bob pushed her around and insulted her. Bob notices a panel in the ceiling leading to an attic crawlspace, so he can hide their drugs over a neighboring apartment.

Rick checks on Nadine, who's convinced that Bob wants to cut her out and they'll eventually leave her behind. He tries to calm her down but she gets angry and starts calling Bob a "Hog." She complains about the "hexes." and tells Rick she'll prove a hat on the bed doesn't mean anything. She throws a hat on the bed and lays down, saying "I'll show all of you." They take off, leaving Nadine there. They plan to steal from a hospital, with Nadine and Rick crashing into cars in the parking lot to get everyone outside while Bob goes in. He gets into the drugs but a hospital employee runs into him and goes to get help. Two men attack Bob, who fends them off with a crowbar and dashes out a window. After some scrambling he hides in a ladies room until things quiet down. Rick and Dianne wait at their rendezvous point all night before finally heading home, assuming he was caught.

Rick finds Nadine dead of an overdose next to the bed (which still has the hat on it.) She had kept the second bottle of Dilaudid for herself not realizing it's potency. Bob arrives just after them and announces "She bit it." Bob says. Rick gets angry when Bob talks badly about Nadine, saying "She got what she deserves."

They hide the body in the attic. Talking afterwards, Bob tells Dianne, "It's like trying to raise a couple of kids, when you take on a couple like that. These kids, they're all TV babies, watching people killing, fucking each other on the boob tube for so long. it's all they know." He tells Dianne he's  getting tired. Their plan goes south quickly when the hotel manager informs them that he needs the room as the whole hotel was reserved some time ago for a Sheriff's convention. We see the hotel swarming with Sheriffs.  They decide to put Nadine in a garment bag, and Bob puts her in the trunk in front of the Sheriffs walking past. Bob tells Dianne that he's planning to go on a methadone program and "cleaning up my hands." She has no interest in that idea, and is angry that he just sprang it on her. He urges her to come with him, but to no avail.

They bury Nadine in the woods and then split up, Bob enters the methadone program like he said, leaving Dianne and Rick together. Bob has an interview with a Drug Counselor.
Drug Counselor: How long have you been on drugs altogether?
Bob: All my life.
Drug Counselor: And this isn't your first time withdrawing?
Bob: No. The first time withdrawing on Methadone.
Drug Counselor: How old are you now?
Bob: 26
Drug Counselor: Are you married?
Bob: Uh, yeah.

Drug Counselor: Where is your wife?
Bob: I don't know.

Drug Counselor: Do you have children?
Bob: No.

Drug Counselor: Do you have a job?
Bob: No.

Drug Counselor: Do you have a Social Security Number?
Bob: I don't know.
Drug Counselor: Have you ever been convicted of a felony?
Bob: Yeah, a few times.

Drug Counselor: What were they?
Bob: What do you want? My life story? Look, lady, I'm a junkie. I like drugs. I like the whole lifestyle, but it just didn't pay off. You know, you don't see my kind of people, 'cause my kind of people, they don't come down here and beg dope, they go out and get it and if they miss, they go to jail and kick alone with nothing, in some holding tank.

Drug Counselor: I'm sorry, Bob. I don't mean to hassle you. All this is required. I'm sorry if you think it's unnecessary. Have you ever considered becoming a counselor, and helping other addicts with their problems?
Bob: No.
Drug Counselor: Why not?

Bob: Well, to begin with, nobody, and I mean nobody, can talk a junkie out of using. You can talk to 'em for years but sooner or later they're gonna get a hold of something. Maybe it's not dope, maybe it's booze, maybe it's glue, maybe it's gasoline. Maybe it's a gunshot to the head. But something, something to relieve the pressures of their everyday life, like having to tie their shoes.

Bob runs into an old acquaintance, Father Tom Murphy (William Burroughs) who is also in the program. Tom was a priest addicted to heroin until being kicked out of the church. They're both happy to see each other. Tom tells "There is no demand in the priesthood for elderly drug addicts." Father Tom wastes no time in asking Bob if he's holding. He explains, "I'm in the program, but sometimes I get a little ahead of my skin." He asks Bob if he wants to score, Bob declines but takes a walk to keep him company. He shows Bob little details around the neighborhood. Bob narrates "The benevolent Father Tom Murphy, the most notorious dope fiend on the coast. When he was holding, he'd always share with those of us who wanted it. He was very kind. Tom was King then, he had it all. His ass was covered in this life and the next. I bet he shot a million bucks in his arm."

Bob quickly finds a job in a machine shop, operating a drill press. He stays in his little apartment and goes to work every day and attends regular support meetings. One night he returns home and finds Gentry waiting for him. He tells Bob "I hear you're on a methadone program. You don't think that's gonna keep Trousinski from jumping your ass, do you?
Bob: To tell you the truth, I haven't given it much thought.
Gentry: You know, for once, I'm not here to hassle you. Trousinski lost his gold badge over that little incident. He's working traffic out of he north end. He's made so many goddamned threats, he's almost gonna have to hurt you. I don't wanna see that happen.
Bob: Look, what can I say? I got a job, you know?
Gentry: What happened out there in the sticks, Bob? Where's Dianne?
Bob: YOu know how whimsical women are. She found some other dude to chase after and off she went, chasing after him.
Gentry: I find that a little hard to believe. You and Dianne have been running around together since you were little kids. You know, I hope you make out on that job of yours. But, I sincerely hope that you'll straighten up a little bit. Take care of yourself, Bob.

Bob keeps at his job and meetings. At one meeting he tells the other attendees "I was going right to the source, where they make drugs, in the drug store." impressing them all. Bob walks past an alley way and sees David, who used to live next door, slapping another kid around for not having his money. Bob intervenes and easily humiliates David, letting the other kid go.

Bob has a talk with Father Murphy about stories he used to tell about being in prison and having the guards shoot him up with Morphine. He tells him, "They didn't do that for me." Father Murphy tells him, "Well, they don't do that for anyone anymore. Narcotics have been systematically scapegoated and demonized. The idea that anyone can use drugs and escape a horrible fate is the method of these idiots. I predict in the near future. right wingers will use drug hysteria as a pretext to set up an international police apparatus. But, I'm an old man, I may not live to see a final solution of the drug problem."

Later, Bob has a visit from Dianne, who has come to check on him. They have a cup of tea and he tells her about his job. He says "It's kind of a drag, but it pays the rent." She realizes that he's seriously trying. She leaves him a package of drugs  in case "he needs a taste every now and then."
She asks him "What happened that day? Was it me? Did I do something wrong?"
Bob: No, baby. It wasn't you. It was Nadine's death and the hex she threw on us with that hat and then I panicked when I looked down to the parking lot and saw all those cop cars. Hell, I knew i was dead. So, I started copping deuces. I prayed like I never prayed before. I said, God, Son, Devil, whoever you are up there, please have pity on me. Please let me get this poor girl's body out of this hotel room and into the ground so I don't have to spend the rest of my life in prison. And God, if you'll do that for me I'll show you my appreciation, by going home, getting on the Methadone program, getting a job, and living a virtuous life. And, I promised, so here I am."
Dianne: Are you gonna stick with it forever?
Bob: Well, you know what, Dianne, for all the boredom the straight life brings, it's not that bad. I mean, even this crummy little room ain't so bad. I actually wake up some mornings and feel like, something good's gonna happen today, you know? I'm a regular guy, I got my regular job, my regular room, and now, I got you.
Dianne: You're crazy, Bob.
He asks her to say, but she tells him she's Rick's old lady now, and works on his crew. She leaves, and he tells her it was good to see her, and "I wish I could win you back."

The next day after work, he gives the drugs (including a bottle of Dilaudid) that Dianne left to Father Murphy, who is very appreciative. When he returns to his own apartment there are men in ski masks with guns waiting for him. They depend to know where his dope is. He realizes one of the guys is David, who thinks Bob is running a scam. They beat him at gunpoint and he narrates, "There's nothing more life affirming than getting the shot kicked out of you. I knew it by heart. You can buck the system, but you can't buck the dark forces that lie hidden beneath the surface, the ones some people call superstitions, howling banshees, black cats, hats on beds, dogs, the evil eye, so I relaxed and gave into the notion that for the very first time in my life, I knew exactly what was going to happen next."
David announces he's going to kill Bob. He takes off the mask and shoots him. A neighbors hears the shot and after seeing Bob on the floor, calls the police. Gentry arrives as Bob is being wheeled into the ambulance and asks to talk to Bob for a second.He asks Bob who did it.
Bob: The hat.
Gentry: Did you say "the hat?"
Bob: Tell Dianne, "Look out for the hat." Tell her.
Gentry: Ok, Bob. So the hat shot you, right, Bob?
Bob: No. The TV baby shot me.
Gentry: The TV baby shot you? But the hat was with him. Bob, who's the hat? You've got to tell me who the hat is so I can tell Dianne.
Bob: Never mind, I'll tell her myself.

They load him into the ambulance. He narrates as home video of his old crew comes up, "It's this fucking life. You never know what's gonna happen next. Maybe that's why Nadine spiked herself with the easy way out. That's why Dianne keeps on going like she does. See, most people, they don't know how they're gonna feel from one minute to the next, but a dope fiend has a pretty good idea. All you got to do is look at the labels on the little bottles. You got to know how to read the signs. That's what the hat on the bed was, which is why I'm not scared. I paid my debt to the hat. The irony was fucking brilliant. The chickenshit cops were giving me an escort to the fattest pharmacy in town. I was still alive. Hope they can keep me alive."


Unknown said...

Excellent review of this great film. I love Van Sant's entire Portland trilogy with this one taking second place to MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO, which I feel is still the man's masterpiece.

Not to take anything away from this film which is so well done and features a top notch cast - not a bad note. I esp. liked James Remar and how over the course of the film you see how he is more than just the stereotypical cop out to get Bob. There's that great scene later on when he meets with Bob after he's cleaned himself up and tells him, that he's not there to bust him or give him a hard time. It really humanizes Remar's character.

INDBrent said...

Hi J.D.! It's hard to compete with "Idaho" Van Sant has a realistic approach to character that you don't see from many others. Yes, Remar's performance was terrific. You got the sense of a whole history, and a deeper concern than just wanting to bust Bob, although he'd certainly do that too. He seemed like a very human cop, which was a great touch.