I’ve been Spun. Jonas Ã…kerlund‘s “ode to crystal meth” (I’m not sure if “ode” is the proper word…), Spun, is the junkiest of all druggie movies I’ve seen (and I consider myself a fan of drug movies…). Not only did the movie totally make me feel like I was on crystal, but it also made me want to be on crystal, which I’m not sure is quite the goal of the movie. (Which is why I initially called the movie an “ode” to the drug.)
Prior to seeing Spun, I only knew of Ã…kerlund due to his music video projects, most notably “Try, Try, Try” by the Smashing Pumpkins (he also did “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera and “American Life” by Madonna [among others] — so it’s safe to say that he’s into controversial videos). On the Smashing Pumpkins’ Greatest Hits Video Collection there is quite a bit about the video. It basically follows two heroin junkies in Amsterdam (or somewhere in Europe). The DVD contains the “music video” version of the song as well as an extended “director’s cut” (or short film version) that goes more in-depth with the couples lives. The video is extremely graphic and realistic — and, as I recall, there were, of coures, issues with it being played on MTV and other music video channels.
While most art relating to drug-use comes off moralistic and very anti-drug, I would have to say that Ã…kerlund’s stuff is rather sympathetic — and I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. The “Try, Try, Try” video really captures the genuine love the two addicts have for each other and how scoring becomes about trying to make the other happy and whatnot. One of the scenes from Spun that I found really interesting was toward the end when Ross and Nikki were in the car on some all-night drive and having a meth-induced conversation — they were really connecting at this strange, primal level that I think only comes via drug use. I’ve never really seen anything like that captured on film before because it seems to be one of the most “positive” (eh, again, I hesitate on the word usage, here…) aspects of using drugs.
Another thing I found really interesting about Spun was the white trash aspect. I’ve realized that my perception of crystal meth is rather skewed because I consider it to be a party drug, when it originated as a “blue collar”/”working class” drug, so I wasn’t expecting the movie to be about a bunch of really ugly, nasty looking people using the drug. In most drug movies I’ve seen, the users start off looking really attractive and eventually end up looking gross by the end — but from the very begining, the characters in Spun were nasty.
I also have to comment on the cast of the movie: it was bizzare. First, we have Jason Schwartzman playing Ross. Now I’ve only seen Schwartzman in Rushmore and I Heart Huckabees, where he plays basically the same type of character (nerdy, off-kilter, etc.). Well, he plays the same type of character in Spun, except this time he’s a meth addict… oh, and he likes to have freaky sex with strippers. Seriously: bizzare. Then we have Brittany Murphy playing Nikki. I guess her playing this role isn’t so bizzare because, to me, she looks like some drug addict (all thin, sunken face, etc.): so nevermind the fact she’s in it. But then John Leguizamo player “Spider” Mike. Now the first time I saw him in a movie was Summer of Sam, in which he plays an angry, fucked-up guy. So I’ve always thought he was twisted. But then I saw him in Moulin Rouge and Spawn and realized he was in Super Mario Brothers: The Movie and is basically considered a comedian. Well, to those who consider this guy to be a comic actor: see Spun and Summer of Sam where he plays fucked up funny guys. Anyway, Mena Suvari was also in the cast, and she looked like shit, which I wouldn’t have expected from her. But the real treat was Mickey Rourke who plays The Cook (the guy who makes all the meth). Now I know lots of critics say that ever since Nine 1/2 Weeks he’s gone downhill, but I’m not sure. This dude is deranged and it shows in movies like Spun and Sin City and even, to some extent, Once Upon a Time in Mexico. I really think Rourke has fun acting and likes to take strange roles just for the hell of it. Maybe I’m trying to give him more credit, I dunno. I just know he’s fun to watch.
So those are the “main characters” of the movie. But like any artsy/entertaining movie, this one has some interesting cameos. First we have Debbie Harry of the group Blondie playing the lesbian neighbor of Ross. I’ve only seen Debbie Harry in two roles, and they were both cameos. She also played a minor part in the movie The Fluffer, one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. (When Jolie and I saw the movie, I think she was the only non-gay boy in the theatre). In addition to Debbie Harry, Ron Jeremy of pornography (and Surreal Life Season Two) fame plays the bartender at a strip club. Ohh but it gets stranger because Billy Corgan (from the Smashing Pumpkins) plays a doctor. Oh, and Billy also does the music for the film, including a few songs with vocals. I never associate Billy’s soft, feminine voice with crystal meth use, but whatever.
So overall, I think the movie was decent, but I’m not sure about its message — if it even had one. Rather than being grossed out or greatly disturbed, the movie entertained me and sort of made me laugh. The whole cameo-filled thing made the movie a lot less serious than it could have been. The acting was good, but I maybe have issues with fairly well-known actors parodying/playing/pretending to be white trash crystal meth users, but whatever — that’s film for you.