Permanent Midnight

April 25, 2007 - Ben Stiller heads a strong cast in this 1998 drama based on the autobiographical book from Hollywood scriptwriter and heroin addict Jerry Stahl. Maria Bello, Owen Wilson and Elizabeth Hurley also star. Cheryl Ladd has a small role and Stahl himself appears as a doctor at a methadone clinic.

I missed the first few minutes of this movie, but I gather that it begins with Stahl (Stiller) preparing to head back to Hollywood after a stint in rehab. Before going, he shacks up in a motel with Kitty (Bello) and tells her his story.

In flashbacks, we see how Stahl married a British producer-type named Sandra (Hurley) to help her stay in the country. He hangs out with Nicky (Wilson) and takes his drugs. Soon, Jerry is hooked on heroin and writing for a sitcom that looks an awful lot like ALF.

As Jerry spirals deeper into drugs, his Hollywood career dries up, Sandra kicks him out and even his dealers don't want to deal with him anymore. Jerry misses his daughter's birth because he's shooting up in a hospital bathroom. He hits rock bottom when he shoots up with the baby in the car then gets pulled over by the police.

Overall review: *** I found it somewhat difficult to buy Ben Stiller in the lead role, mostly, I suppose, because I'm used to seeing him in comedies. In Permanent Midnight, he barely cracks a smile. But, I think that the feeling of uneasiness about Stiller somehow heightens the overall disturbing nature of the film.