Basketball Diaries was a wasted opportunity for junk movie greatness. Jim Carroll’s book provided the perfect base for a tale of lost children, lost hope, lost lives, instead DiCaprio frittered away his character in a toss of gorgeous hair and pristine prissiness. Wrong actor, too much gloss, not enough grit. Requiem for a Dream, though it’s greatness is undeniable, the claustrophobic score and horror movie intensity is almost unwatchable. Ten out of ten for artistic endeavor and beyond brutal honesty, zero for watchability. Trainspotting added enough laughter to the grotesque fear factor, Drug Store Cowboy was too stylish – never put the hat on the bed superstition, and why were they all so gorgeous, though it does have Burroughs and comes in a close second. Sid and Nancy is a fine movie, but not so much junk as punk.
Enter Candy, 2006, Australian made and not one of the big hitters. I know the critics didn’t like this movie, but Heath Ledger and and Abbie Cornish put in flawless performances, and Candy itself is a knowing nod towards reality without bludgeoning the viewer over the head with grimness. The Times review upon release was predictable: junkies bad, junkies boring, needles yuck, not enough redemption, not enough newness, the reviewer is not impressed, it is all too predicable for their refined tastes. I don’t think they gave the movie a fair shake. Candy doesn’t shy away from the reality of life for the female junkie, the scene where Candy starts to resent having to prostitute herself to make both their drug money while Dan (Ledger) is getting high off her degradation is the simple reality laid bare: this is life and it is ugly. If you are looking for a junk movie, a swift kick in the realities to remind you why you don’t want to use push past the honeymoon phase of the first third of the movie, and get into the nitty gritty of how it always goes for everyone, time after time until someone is either dead or clean.
There is something masochistic about watching movies like this: you aren’t going to be entertained, or feel good, but you end up leaving satisfied and at least not feeling like the director is taking you for a fool. Leonardo as Jim Carroll? I felt cheated immediately. Someone needs to make that movie again, and give the memory of Carroll the appropriate respect. If you watched the movie and never had the good fortune to meet the writer and protagonist of the autobiographical Basketball Diaries, here is the real Jim. Makes my heart hurt just to see a stage full of people I never met but loved and who are no longer here. It would appear I’m getting old….