Robert Downey Jr., Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Woody Harrelson, Rory Cochrane
Director: Richard Linklater
“An undercover cop in a not-too-distant future becomes involved with a dangerous new drug and begins to lose his own identity as a result” (IMDB).
What to Expect
Alex Jones. Yes, that Alex Jones
Why You Should Watch It
The rotoscoping job is trippy and adds a Hunter S. Thompson flair to this less popular book adaptation about drug culture. Robert Downey Jr.’s acting alone feels like he’s a missing character from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Plus, Philip K. Dick’s 1977 story frighteningly parallels the prevalence of the current opioid crisis in the US.
Rainy Day Flick (C)
The blue glory bower was the inspiration for the film’s source of Substance D, but the fictional name Philip K. Dick gave the flower in his book is more interesting: Mors ontological, which means death of reality. A fitting description for a drug that eventually makes users incapable of discerning what’s real, or even their own identity.
Sticking closely to the plot of the book, the rehabilitation clinic, New Path, takes Substance D addicts who have had their brains fried and puts them to work tending acres of those same reality-bending flowers. If the workers don’t understand what’s going on around them, they have no way of realizing the company purporting to cure them of their illness is manufacturing and profiting from the drug that put them there in the first place. It’s the perfect scheme, and one that can’t be discovered unless the cops get one of their own addicted to the D and suffering from such severe brain damage that he’s put on one of the farms and hopefully will have some sense of mind to report back, in some way, to his fellow undercovers.
Such is the reasoning of A Scanner Darkly. While imperfect (couldn’t you just pretend to have brain damage…?), it reflects the tragic and unnecessary consequences of heavy drug use. The thought of Dick writing the novel in the 70s, and the film being made just as opioid addiction had reached crisis levels makes the story feel prophetic; how the ones tasked with helping and curing us are the ones handing us our doom.