Films concerned with the abuse of drugs have traditionally been fodder for the scriptwriter. From the now laughable ‘Reefer Madness’ to the more seriously themed ‘Trainspotting’ the main stream film goes seems to like to glimpse into the dangerous and forbidden world of the addict. Dating back to ‘the Man with a Golden Arm’ substance abuse has not been glorified; it has been shown as a means to quickly destroy your life. One of the latest films in this genre is Tweeked, a brutal look at the existence of two methamphetamine addicts. Carrie (Darling Narita) and Michelle (Ali Raymer) most likely started life as typical young girls in search of fun and excitement. Friends since high school, as the film opens they are rooming together in Los Angles. They don’t seem to realize just how far from their dreams they have come; searching through garbage bins of any item of small value that can be turned into a hit of crank. Their subsistence has collapsed into the endless cycle of finding drugs, doing the deal, getting high and crashing. There is no other motivation for the two girls; they are constantly chasing that first rush they felt, never quite getting there again. During one of their drug deals things go horribly wrong, let’s just say that gun play is involved and the pair freaks out and runs for their lives. The thing with meth addicts is no matter how good a plan sounds the execution never seems to be accomplished. Carrie and Michelle want to go to San Diego but that uncontrollable need for one more hit for the road keeps getting in the way.
As often occurs in such situations, a codependency develops. Carrie is a little more together than Michelle, which is to the extent that the term ‘together’ can be applied to a speed freak. Perhaps it is only in contrast that Carrie comes off so well. Michelle is completely out of any semblance to reality. She is the ultimate form of that friend we all have somewhere in our past that comes up with ideas that for some unknown reason sound good at the time only to have disastrous results. So much of Michelle’s perception of the world filters through her craving for drugs that nothing that comes out of her mind could ever possible work. Michelle uses Carrie as a substitute for that little voice that warns a person that she is about to plunge over the edge. In some bizarre manner Carrie, unable to fully care for herself needs to provide some fashion of help to Michelle creating a codependent bond between the girls. Carrie at least seems to realize there is a problem.
Shawn (Gavin Hignight) is a somewhat nerdy young man who finds himself pulled in to the madness. He actually comes in handy to the girls as Carrie gets arrested during while trying to straighten Michelle out and Shawn has to help bail her out. Michelle has literally disappeared into the night, well, actually it was daylight, leaving Carrie and Shawn the lamentable task of locating her before it is too late. This is the progression usually shown in drug flicks, the addict are extremely talented at pulling others into their self destructive spiral.
Many may think that those on this type of drugs live for sex, drugs and rock and roll. Tweeked demonstrates that this is for the large part media hype. Sure there is sexual activity but that is usually done either to obtain drugs, control those with drugs or pass the time until you get more drugs. There is nothing erotically charged in the sexual activity shown in this film. For one thing hygiene is not exactly a primary consideration to the person addicted to meth. For Michelle sex is just something to do, for Carrie it is a desparate way to connect with someone else.
Tweeked does an incredibly good job of showing methamphetamine as a drug where a large part of the addiction is the ritualistic activities surround use of the drug. There are drugs that the preparation becomes as addictive as the substance itself and meth in a prime example. The girls go through obsessive, repetitive movements as they prepare and take hit after hit. While on the drug focus is often concentrated to a single object or action. Carrie can look at something intently as Michelle goes wild around her. Although the two girls are in the same room they barely share the same universe in their drug addled minds. Time is meaningless to Carrie and Michelle; there is no hunger, no bed time, nothing that non addicts use to demark the passing hours matter to them. There is only being high and seeking to get high. Rest comes only when their abused bodies have to crash, recouping just enough to start all over again.
While ancillary characters affect the story this is basically a two person play. Darling Narita is excellent as Carrie. She gives a little more depth to her presentation that I would have thought possible considering the subject matter. Narita gives us a Carrie that was once someone’s daughter, at one time a nice little girl hoping for a future. Narita doesn’t fall into the easy way out of playing Carrie as the victim; sure, bad choices where made by her but there is little consideration of how she got in this predicament, just what has to be done now. Ali Raymer is wonderfully manic as Michelle. The glazed over look in her eyes as she performs an important task such as stacking dice, is incredible. Raymer almost seems to be possessed by the role, throwing herself head long into the character of Michelle. Gavin Hignight presents Shawn as a nice guy that wants to help but finds that he has opened a small Pandora’s box, getting pulled in deeper than he ever thought possible.
This is a freshman effort for writer/director Beth Dewey. Apparently this is loosely based on a series of events early in her life. Like many new on the film scene Dewey chose to use Digital Video for self expression. While many fledgling writer/directors see this as a cheap way to ‘bring their vision to life’, Dewey has a great eye for the freedom of movement this format provides. Since with digital video there is no concern for burning film, a major expense, Dewey appears to have been willing to explore a less structured approach using an outline more than an actual script. With a subject like this you really could use any format that imposed too many restraints. The jittery camera work reflected the speed freak mind view, disconcerting, sure, but this is not a rosy look at life.
The DVD was very well done. The video is usually crisp although many may have to get used to the fast paced cutting and obsession with strange details. The digital video is presented in non-anamorphic 1.85:1 and is well edited with a good color balance. The audio is a bit flat provided only in Dolby 2.0. While this is not the film for everyone it is a must if you are interested in what independent film is all about, talent.