Bob Dole, that cantankerous old coot from Kansas, made news during the 1996 presidential campaign when he attacked a relatively obscure British movie called Trainspotting. According to Wikipedia, “U.S. Senator Bob Dole accused it of moral depravity and glorifying drug use … although he later admitted that he had not actually seen the film.”
Dole lost the 1996 election, but he made a good point. I give Trainspotting an above-average grade because the movie is inventive, rollicking entertainment – but it does glorify heroin users. My complaint (and Dole’s) is nothing new; critics carped in the 1960s about Butch and Sundance, and Bonnie and Clyde, for their alleged bad influence on youthful moviegoers.
But whining about “sinful” cinema is a lost cause. The truth of the matter is that if you put a clump of putrid dog vomit on the big screen, someone, somewhere, will spearhead a cult following for said dog vomit. There is an audience for just about anything. (Incidentally, I am not comparing Trainspotting to dog vomit.)
Danny Boyle’s gritty depiction of Scottish drug addicts does have tragic moments, but they are glossed over as Boyle moves on to other concerns: a frantic pace, clever dialogue and – above all – a desire to amuse his audience. As druggie Renton says in the film, “People think it’s [drug abuse] all about misery and desperation and death … but what they forget is the pleasure of it. Otherwise we wouldn’t do it.”
Trainspotting is all about pleasing oneself. For every dead baby scene, there is a hilarious bit about “the worst toilet in Scotland,” or the perils of pummeling a dog’s posterior with a pellet gun. Bob Dole was correct: the movie does glorify drug use. But it is also glorious fun. Grade: B
Director: Danny Boyle Cast: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd, Robert Carlyle, Kelly Macdonald, Peter Mullan, James Cosmo, Pauline Lynch, Shirley Henderson Release: 1996
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