I should have taken an additional finger away from "Permanent Midnight" just because it's the second movie I've seen in the last month where Ben Stiller fucks a woman doggy style. It's a disturbing trend, for sure, but I always take the high road and won't knock off a digit for it.
In "Permanent Midnight" Ben Stiller plays heroin addict Jerry Stahl, based on Jerry's autobiogrpahy of the same name. Stiller's character is supposed to be some sort of freakin' writing genius, but he writes for the "Alf" lookalike "Mr. Chompers." I thought all TV writers were high on something. I mean, who else but a drug addict would write an episode of "Alf" without next putting a loaded pistol to his head? Not Stiller, which makes me thinks all of this self-loathing he supposedly feels is bullshit.
There is no real linear plot happening in this mess, so I will summarize what happens in the stream of little stories. Drugs are bad for Stiller. Very, very, very bad. Specifically, they make the film's makeup artist dress him up as a sweaty and pasty weenie. Stiller is also frequently late for meetings. Because she needs a green card, foxy Elizabeth Hurley marries Stiller. With Hurley's help, dumbass Stiller gets a couple of cushy writing jobs. He loses them because of his tardiness. Stiller hangs out with other sweaty and pasty losers. For some reason that we in the audience are not told Hurley falls in love with our junkie hero and lets him knock her up. Apparently, however, that just isn't enough plot for writer/director David Veloz.
Veloz is working off one of them "poor me" celebrity autobiographies that was written long after the author sobered up enough to cash in on his fucked up past. Veloz wanted his movie's character relate these stories from a new, sober vantage point just like in the book. And he does, without losing any of the self-importance or annoyingness of it all. The boring, flat string of unfunny junkie anecdotes that make up Stiller's past are framed by him, in the present, telling them to another recovering addict who just may be his soulmate. So, not only are we subjected to the uninteresting main story, we also must watch him hump a broad while she asks questions that prod him to tell the next anecdote.
This device is just like the rest of the movie: so Goddamn full of itself it makes me want to ram some hot pokers up a few Hollywood types' cornholes. Stiller, who is supposed to be likeable now that he's sober, never bothers to ask the chick what her drug-addict story is. Apparently his is the only important one.
That's only problem number one in the cavalcade of bad decisions made by Veloz. I'm no genius in the ways of love, but I do know that there is a reason people fall in love. Not in Veloz's little world where Hurley just goes gaga for a guy she sees shoot up in her bathroom.
The movie deals with drug addiction in the same way ABC After School Specials do, but with much more expensive sets, better lighting and no Matthew Laborteaux. Drugs are bad and drug addicts are bad people, except for the hero who is just confused. There is no upside to drugs in this world, no explanation of what draws people to them in the first place. To insure that we won't give a rat's ass in his story, nothing Stiller loves is ever on the line. He is never less or more of a mess so far as I can tell. Veloz even fucks up the "descent into hell" that is federally mandated for all drug-addict movies.
I don't want to heap all the blame on Veloz, though. Stiller and Hurley are so wrong for their roles that they might as well be played by sock puppets. Actually, that would be pretty cool. Stiller as a drug addict? Suck my ass. He acts like he's only seen them as portrayed on old episodes of "CHiPs." No matter how sweaty or pale he looks, he plays every scene with that, "Look at me, I'm being important " bullshit attitude that I thought was only in British dramas about uplifting amputees. Hurley looks pretty, but she doesn't bother to do much but stand.
This sucker just barely gets two fingers and a strong desire to not see Ben Stiller fucking anymore.