There comes a time when you can't even fathom another tequila shot even if 20 of your closest friends are bellowing, spitting and squealing "drink" as they stand two inches from your sunburned, bloated cheeks.
This is perhaps when you take a clue from the old Tao belief that the journey is the reward. Watching others make the journey toward oblivion can be quite cathartic and you might even learn something. Several movies have dealt with the horror and the downfall of alcohol and drug abuse. In the spirit of Spring Break we've gathered some of the finest party movies worth digging out of the dust in your video store. They each revel in the blinding dizziness that only too many drinks, tokes or pills can induce.
Life is just a series of highs and lows and the search for joy, according to Cheech and Chong. In Up in Smoke (1978), Cheech and Chong's first popular movie, the search for the next high is plot, not subtext. It's a modern road trip through Los Angeles which finds Cheech and Chong in memorable scenes like this one: Chong: "Hey man, how am I driving?"
Cheech: "I think we're parked, man." This is definitely the classic stoner movie that all other stoner movies must try and live up to.
Depressing and Uplifting Drunken Tales
Oddball party movies involving mismatched friends and lovers who find themselves together in a sticky situation is usually fine fodder for party movies. The king of this genre is Animal House (1978). It's still enjoyable because at its core it's about losers who want more power, the downtrodden getting even and getting drunk and even, in the end, getting the girl. John Belushi gives his finest performance as Bluto, a bloated, mumbling frat mascot of sorts.
Alcohol is a depressant, so in depicting this fact in great detail Leaving Las Vegas offers this telling line by Nicholas Cage's character Ben: "I'm not sure if I lost my family because of my drinking, or if I'm drinking because I lost my family." And so, the cheap and faded landscape of Vegas and Ben's life mesh as the protagonist attempts to drink himself to death. Directed by Mike Figgis, Leaving Las Vegas depicts both the hilarious nature of being drunk coupled with the sometimes acute depression that accompanies drunkenness. "Between the hundred-and-one-proof breath and the occasional drool, some interesting words fall from your mouth," notes Sera, the prostitute Ben falls for.
In a classic drunken scene in Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?, Mike Nichols directorial debut in 1966, Elizabeth Taylor chomps on a chicken leg, drags on a cigarette and lambasts her husband, played by Richard Burton. The two drunk academics then fight on through the night in front of guests and slowly, their psychosis is revealed and splattered on the screen in drunken ugliness. With Richard Burton's hair flopping and Taylor perfecting a chubby, messy look the glamorous Hollywood couple knew how to look the part of tragic drunks.
Does He Live at the Bar?
In Steve Buscemi's directorial debut, Trees Lounge (1996), you never see one of the main characters, Billy, walk into the bar, he is just always there. He sits in his usual spot and just stares ahead of him. Buscemi plays Tommy, a man in his 30s who seems more willing to wallow in his own directionless than to do anything about it. Chloe Sevigny plays Debbie, the 17 year old niece of Tommy's ex-girlfriend.
In this character study, Tommy's lack of direction and passion for his life faces off with Debbie's stoned innocence and luster. It's not a depressing drunk flick, but more of a dark comedy study of mid life angst in Long Island. Where it really works is its striking portrayal of Tommy's descent into a nearly pathetic but still lovable lost soul who drifts in and out of bars with no goal but a lot of unused internal fire. Trees Lounge is perhaps the best portrayal of alcoholism to date, not too sentimental and not too down and out tragic.
Finally, for those that crave nostalgia and drug induced fun there is Alice in Wonderland. Magic mushrooms, smoke and mirrors and innocent Alice making her way through an alterworld is enough to make you get out there and join in the journey.