Reviewed on 2007 November 6
The snarky part of me just wanted to write “didn’t!” and have done with it, but that wouldn’t be fair to y’all, now would it?
Besides, this was a good flick. Good enough to make me buy the DVD when I kept seeing only bits of it on cable. It’s hard to write an anti-drug story without being preachy but with fact-based source material and Johnny Depp leading the cast, I think you’re off to a good start. In the ’70s, George Jung was to cocaine what Kleenex is to tissues, and at one point he says that if you did a line in that decade, there was an 85% chance you were snorting his product. This movie shows how this came to pass, as well as the aftermath.
As a child, George Jung (Depp) saw his critical, cold mother Ermine (Rachel Griffiths) reject his honest, hard-working father Fred (Ray Liotta), scolding him for never having enough money. This made George decide to completely reject a traditional life of working for a living, fleeing instead to California in the ’60s. He discovers he can make a nice chunk of change selling weed right on the beach, and his friends help supply him with larger and larger amounts of the stuff. As the demand outstrips the supply, he needs to find faster ways to get larger amounts of marijuana. Without giving away too many plot details, he ultimately meets a Columbian, Diego Delgado (Jordi Mollà). Delgado is impressed with what Jung accomplished, but convinces him he can make much more money selling cocaine.
Ted Demme directed this, David McKenna wrote a tight screenplay, and the acting was the cherry on top. Depp is great, and the bits where he interacts with Liotta are heart-breaking. I’ve seen complaints about Penelope Cruz’s depiction of Jung’s wife Mirtha, and I disagree. Yes, she was unlikable and yes, she was supposed to be. Bitch-sion accomplished! Really, there wasn’t any bad acting in this one. And though it doesn’t take a typical path, I’d have to say it’s very anti-drug. Just look at the clip of Jung at the end of the movie, and tell me that for at least a moment, you don’t want to start an organic diet and join a health club.
Three chocolate morsels.