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Million Dollar Movie


“Drugstore Cowboy” came out shortly after “Sex, Lies and Videotape” in the summer of 1989. It was a strong year for movies. Scorsese’s short, “Life Lessons” was released that spring. Later came “Do the Right Thing,” and “Casualties of War,” “The Fabulous Baker Boys,” “Sea of Love,” “Glory,” and “Enemies: A Love Story” to name just a few.

“Drugstore Cowboy” was the first movie I saw at the newly-opened Angelica movie house on Houston Street. I saw it again uptown and the movie gripped me.  I saw it again on TV last year. It holds up.

I think it’s Matt Dillon’s finest performance. Kelly Lynch is fantastic as well.

Here’s P. Kael’s blurb for the New Yorker:

Nihilistic humor rarely bubbles up in a movie as freely as it does here. Set in Portland, Oregon, in 1971, the story is about two couples who live together and travel around the Pacific Northwest robbing hospitals and pharmacies, grabbing fistfuls of pills and capsules. They’re like a junkie version of Clyde Barrow’s gang. The director, Gus Van Sant, takes us inside a lot of underground attitudes: the druggies are monomaniacal about leading an aimless existence-they see themselves as romantic figures. They’re comic, but they’re not put down for being comic. The picture keeps you laughing because it’s so nonjudgmental. Van Sant is half in and half out of the desire of adolescents to remain kids forever. As the gang’s 26-year-old leader, Matt Dillon brings the role a light self-mockery that helps set the tone of the film, and Kelly Lynch is strikingly effective as his wife.


1 Matt Blankman   ~  Jun 4, 2012 8:13 am

I'd be curious to see Drugstore Cowboy again. I loved it back then.

As for 1989 being a strong year - I don't think Casualties of War is very good (and I *like* DePalma). It's really heavy-handed and the performances are so overdone.

2 Alex Belth   ~  Jun 4, 2012 8:33 am

"Batman" also came out that summer.

3 RagingTartabull   ~  Jun 4, 2012 9:12 am

yeah I'm not a big Casualties of War guy. Fox is horribly miscast, although I love the ridiculousness of his "Dark Period" (Bright Lights Big City!!). But yeah, heavy handed.

I saw Drugstore Cowboy in High School and remember not loving it, but I should probably give it another shot.

Do The Right Thing, Glory, and Sea of Love are all favorites though. And the original Batman is really the only one of those Burton/Schumacher ones that holds up at all in the wake of Nolan.

4 Matt Blankman   ~  Jun 4, 2012 9:25 am

I didn't care for Batman then or now, really. "Do The Right Thing" was one of the most exciting and memorable movie-going experiences of my life. Not just because of the film, but if you can remember all the talk surrounding it on its release - the worry it would start riots, the hope it would somehow get us all talking...it was a heady time.

5 Matt Blankman   ~  Jun 4, 2012 9:45 am

Also, I don't think Kelly Lynch was ever quite so hot again.

6 Alex Belth   ~  Jun 4, 2012 10:40 am

5) She was beautiful but also had a rich role that she made the most of. I remember "Sex, Lies" had a big debut at Cannes and I recall liking it a lot when it came out. Haven't seen it in many years now though.

7 Normando   ~  Jun 4, 2012 12:08 pm

This is my all time favorite movie. I had it on VHS and watched it almost weekly for a few years. Great soundtrack. I got a Drugstore Cowboy coffee mug and it is one of the few possessions I have managed to retain from that era!

8 Matt Blankman   ~  Jun 4, 2012 1:56 pm

[6] Same here, Alex. I liked it very much 20 odd years ago, but I haven't seen it in eons. I like a lot of Soderberg's stuff, I should go back to it.

9 Boatzilla   ~  Jun 5, 2012 12:44 am

Great post. I liked all of those, but totally agree on Casualties. I could never watch it again. The violence is stomach-turning and not purposeful.

I've seen "Sex, Lies,..." about 3 times recently. It's was playing again on our of our cable movie channels. Every time I stayed up late, it was on. It still hold up despite the VCR issue. All the actors gave perhaps their best performances, IMHO.

Peter Gallagher is fantastic as the cad. And who didn't love Laura San Giacomo's character? You better not say. She went to my high school (Morris Knolls, Denville, NJ), and I knew her brother well, as he was in the band with me. I remember her staring in our school's version of The Miracle Worker. It freaked me out when I saw her in that movie.

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