SECTION FIVE

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COLUMN FOURTEEN, OCTOBER 1, 1996
(Copyright 1996 The Blacklisted Journalist)

 A REVIEW OF TRAINSPOTTING

"Heroin. It's all about heroin and the people who do it."

More than anything else, this is the message I was getting about Danny Boyles' latest film, Trainspotting. Some people applauded it, saying it was about time someone tackled the subject in such a way to really show the highs and lows that drug addicts experience. Others charged that it was nothing more than a glorification of heroin, part of the resurgent drug culture here and around the world. I was just worried about having any message shoved down my throat, considering the soapbox nature of some of Hollywood's latest. Still, I was bent on seeing Trainspotting, no matter what message Boyle had in mind.

Now that I've seen it, there are a few things I really feel strongly about. First, there are those who say Trainspotting is just about a bunch of Scottish rogues raising hell and doing smack. It's not. It's all about Mark Renton, the one member of the gang who you have to love despite his laundry list of vices. He knows his marriage to his drugs is taking him nowhere and he wants to change, unlike his pal Sick Boy. And Renton actually does change, unlike Spud, who's even more innocent but too pathetic to help himself. When I saw Renton making off with his prize in the last scene I had no doubt he was doing the right thing. And when he threw a bone to poor old Spud I knew this guy was a true chum. Go Renton.

The other issue I have regards the heroin itself. Yeah, I saw the fun they had. The opening scene, when they're being chased down the street after pulling a job (vaguely reminiscent of the Beatles fleeing their screaming fans in A Hard Day's Night), made their lifestyle look pretty attractive. Hell, I wanted to jump up onto the screen an join in. But when I got past that and started to see the downs and not just the ups, it made me think. No number of Kurt Cobain articles or Nancy Reagan commercials could have done to me what Boyle did in ninety minutes. While Renton was going through his withdrawal I looked at the screen and saw something that freaked me out. I saw myself. I felt like I was the one strapped into the bed and hallucinating. And it scared the shit out of me. I don't know if this is what Boyle had in mind, but it's what I felt. And by the time I saw the previously clean-cut Tommy succumb to a smack-induced death, I was sold. Trainspotting literally scared me straight.

I was pretty quiet as I walked out of the theater. Most others were echoing their favorite lines and retelling the craziest parts, but I was just thinking to myself. I was imagining what it would be like if I were actually hooked on heroin. Would I be able to kick the habit? I didn't think so then, and I still don't now. And I don't ever want to find out. Is Trainspotting an anti-drug film? No way. But I don't think it's a pro-drug movie, either. It truly did depict the ups and downs of the life of an addict, and I know it's not for me. I think I'll choose life, thank you very much. ##

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