Why Can't Movies Seem to Get Recreational Drug Use Right?

When it comes to doing drugs, just say no. (Or yes. Or waffle a bit, have a couple of drinks, then say yes.) When it comes to putting drugs in your movie, however, think long and hard about that particular decision; if after that you still must, then at least consult with someone who's done that drug before. Ask questions. Find out how the drug makes you feel. Inquire as to how long it takes to hit, and how long it lasts and what the possible negative side effects might be. I bring it up because a number of depictions of drug use in recent releases have struck me as false. Consider the following cases:

1. [SPOILER LEVEL: MEDIUM] In Pedro Almodóvar's Broken Embraces, actor Tamar Novas plays an assistant to a film director, who also moonlights as a DJ at a nightclub. Drugs are pushed his way a lot, and one night, he dabs his finger in some powdered ecstasy and places it on his tongue. Another character saunters up and puts a glass of Coke down in front of him that's laced with GHB. Novas's character sips from the wrong glass accidentally, and instantly after the drink passes through his lips, he lapses into a coma.

Misinformation Level: High. It would take longer, and he would have to have ingested more of the drug, to induce a coma. Drinking alcohol would have contributed to the dangers, but he does not appear to be drinking in the scene.

2. [SPOILER LEVEL: LOW] In Mike Judge's Extract, Ben Affleck's character is a big proponent of pharmaceutical and recreational drugs. He offers Jason Bateman's character an anti-anxiety medication, then later realizes the pill he gave his friend was actually Ketamine, an animal tranquilizer also used at triage stations on the battlefield for its disassociative properties -- it gives the user an "out of body" experience. Bateman's character hires a gigolo to seduce his wife while under its influence.

Misinformation Level: Medium. The character showed none of the typical characteristics of someone on Ketamine, or Special K, as it's called in clubs. The effects may have worn off, but there's no obvious connection between the drug and his poor judgment in the scene in question.

3. [SPOILER LEVEL: HIGH] In Grant Heslov's The Men Who Stare at Goats, soldiers at an army base in Iraq that houses a paranormal studies unit are fed LSD in their morning rations. They soon take on stereotypical "flower-child" characteristics -- communing with nature, smiling, sitting down at their lookout posts and swinging their legs blissfully, etc.

Misinformation Level: High. For a film that prides itself on being based on fact, the reaction of the soldiers to being unwittingly drugged with a strong hallucinogenic like LSD would have more likely been paranoia, anger, fear and anxiety.

4. [SPOILER LEVEL: NONE] In Michael Bay's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, a pot brownie turns Shia LaBeouf's character's mother into a horny, campus terrorizing freak.

Misinformation Level: Low. That's exactly what pot brownies do to your mother.


  • Mikey says:

    You've gotta climb Mount Everest to reach the Valley of the Dolls...

  • stolidog says:

    Mix all of those things together, drink a half bottle of vodka and add some mushrooms, and maybe, just maybe, you'll get coma. If you're sliding in that direction, do some meth, stat.

  • HwoodHills says:

    You're forgetting the all too important drug called "Booze."
    I have yet to see a movie that REALLY depicts what happens when you get stewed.
    ie: Knocked Up.
    In real life Seth Rogen gets loaded and winds up sleeping with the fat girl who's missing a tooth.
    Not Heigel.
    (But maybe that's just me and I'm bitterly projecting.)

  • HwoodHills says:

    Sorry, make that "Heigl."
    (Lunch time cocktails be damned.)

  • DrewSteele says:

    In Beerfest, Jay Chandrasekhar's character, Barry and Mo'Nique have a one night stand while wasted. Other than that, films don't really teach the ugly truth about booze.

  • stretch65 says:

    ...gotta say the depiction of V trips on True Blood have been right on the money...

  • The Winchester says:

    I always thought the mushroom tripping scene in Bridget Jones 2: Electric Boogaloo was rather accurate.

  • SunnydaZe says:

    How about "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas"? Disney World presents "LSD, the Ride".
    "Jacob's Ladder" in neon day-glow would be more like it. . .

  • Dan Kois says:

    Also, what is that shitstorm-causing drug those girls slip into Tucker Max's drink in I HOPE THEY SERVE BEER IN HELL? Is that a real thing?

  • np says:

    I never understood why the characters' pupils in Requiem for a Dream dilated when they did heroin instead of becoming pinpoints. Just the excitement of getting a fix?

  • nino says:

    Why don't directors ask actors? A good number should have experienced plenty of drugs.

  • Strepsi says:

    Their dance club drug use accuracy is low, but for some reasons actors and directors always get the effects of cocaine exactly right. As well, the scene in every comedy where the lead is flattered by attention from a hot woman who turns out to be a transgendered prostitute? Eerily consistent.

  • Anon says:

    Few movies get drug use right, it's true.
    In Knocked Up, the way they obsess over the chairs in the room while tripping on mushrooms is spot-on.
    In Batman Begins, some of the POV shots of people infected with the fear drug are the best representations I've seen of visual distortion from hallucinogens.
    Jacob's Ladder isn't depicting drug use, but the nightmare visions are akin to bad trip visuals.

  • Seth Abramovitch says:

    Yes, that chair scene in Knocked Up is so good and right on. Questioning the very need/existence of chairs. They actually did mushrooms in Vegas during that shoot, so I imagine it came out of that. The Scarecrow visuals, too -- right on.

  • Jeff says:

    I agree with this completely.
    How about in starsky and hutch when he does the cocaine and see's a little bird flying. So off.
    electronic cigarette

  • anon says:

    Go rent The Days of Wine and Roses. Great movie classic.

  • Pat says:

    Im searching for the funding right now to produce a film that takes the batman scarecrow fear drug pov's way past the next level!!!! watch the tron legacy trailer and tell me what that reminds you of.

  • Pat McCarthy says:

    The chair scene in Knocked up is spot on with the intoxicated behavior but it sounds like you're more interested with the visual effects and cinematography aspects of drug use. We're now entering a new era of 3d movie production i believe can bring us to the forefront of drug experience without actual use of drugs. NO FUN!-right? But imagine if visual effects could accurately harness and portray the trip or roll or high or all of the above by using edge work or distortion combined with the 3d experience!!!!!Those who have never done drugs wouldn't have to-they'ld know what it's like walking out of the theater. Or for those who have- they would walk out saying "that's exactly what its like!" Pray i find the funding because I have the sickest movie waiting to be made and I would like to share it with all of you. A friend told me to check out "Captivity" starring Elisha Cuthbert in reference to those sort of p.o.v.s- Other than that I'ld say the closest we've got so far would be Fear and Loathing or the small but intense sequences of Batman Begins!

  • I also do it like this but haven't gone as far as creating a blogpost about it! good on ya!ss

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  • Doc says:

    Not a film, but the best representation of the visuals one would get from LSD is in the music video for vicarious from tool. The rainbow outline on the main characters flesh is EXACTLY what one would see on LSD. Its not a film and its a small detail, but other than fear and loathing its the best representation of what youre mostly going to experiance on Acid. And as much as i love Batman Begins its still not that great a representation. :/