Addicted to Her Love (or Love is the Drug, as it was originally titled) appears to be a shelf-warmer, a forgotten drama sitting around in a rights-holder's vault until someone's stock (in this case, "True Blood" star Lizzy Caplan) rose enough for a release to be theoretically profitable. Most of these kinds of movies aren't very good, and Addicted to Her Love is far from flawless, but it boasts performances -- not Caplan's -- that should have been enough to get it into the marketplace sooner than 2010.
John Patrick Amedori plays Jonah Brand (the film was made in 2005 or 2006, before Forgetting Sarah Marshall, meaning the name is just a bizarre coincidence), a quiet kid without many friends. Jonah is just about to graduate from an expensive private school for gifted kids and head off to UCLA, but on the last day of school, he finally makes a tentative, microscopic move towards his dream girl, Sara (Caplan). Surprisingly, his gambit works, and he finds himself in a small circle of friends that also includes fellow students Lucas (D.J. Cotrona), Erin (Jenny Wade), and (unfortunately for Jonah), Sara's boyfriend Troy (Jonathon Trent). For the most part, they're less interested in Jonah than they are in his day job at a pharmacy, goading him to steal drugs for them, but when he does, it all goes wrong very quickly when Troy overdoses and dies.
I recently saw Amedori in Timer, and his character in that film is carefree, coolly reserved, and charming. It's nothing that seemed outwardly impressive until I saw his performance here, which is almost the exact opposite. Jonah is sycophantic, desperate, and awkward, obviously unprepared for the world he's blindly diving headlong into. Amedori illustrates the enticing emotional rush of being a part of a popular crowd and being within reach of the girl he's obsessing over with an awestruck serenity, and as the water gets choppy, he capsizes with equal intensity, turning into an unrecognizably tortured person. Interpersonal relationship drama, especially at a high school level, is something I personally find incredibly uninteresting, but the movie stays locked on Jonah's journey while he frantically clings to his dream social life, his actions becoming increasingly dangerous.
Another plus in favor of the film is the general intelligence of the movie's central characters. Since all of these kids are meant to be gifted, it's extremely refreshing to have their recklessness come from the average young adult's sense of invincibility rather than plain old stupidity. For the most part, these characters actually understand the complicated, twisted aspects of the situation they've gotten themselves into, and make rational, thoughtful decisions to try and solve the problem. Cotrona is the star supporting player here, starting out as a general dick and flying through a series of reactions to Troy's death. His third-act confrontation scene behind Jonah's workplace is a stand-out, as well as the one that follows; there are emotional facets to Lucas that similar characters in comparable movies would never exhibit. Caplan, on the other hand, is easily the weakest link in the cast, standing around gaping and filling her line readings with agonizing pauses. The movie's final scene is between Amedori and Caplan, and let's just say it's a good thing that Amedori is more than capable of carrying it by himself.
Aside from Caplan's performance, director Elliott Lester's mild concern with storytelling holds the film back from excellence. Several of Jonah's key emotional factors are vague at best, including the amount of time Jonah has spent in private schools or what exactly about Sara is so appealing to him. A handful of scenes with Jonah's mother, played by Daryl Hannah, are well-performed but hard to engage with because her character is so perfunctory and slight. Additionally, the screenplay by Wesley Strick (of Scorsese's Cape Fear) and Steve Allison ultimately doesn't know where to go, arriving at a logical conclusion and going no further. Perhaps the movie was meant to feel like a hazy whirlwind, to put the viewer in the same situation as Jonah, but without hooking the viewer on his goals and desires as powerfully as the character, one can only engage with the film as an outsider.
The packaging for Addicted to Her Love pitches an Informers-style tale about glitzy L.A. decadence, but that's not the movie on the inside. It also has a baffling shot of what looks like a concert at the bottom, even though the closest thing the movie gets to a band performance is a karaoke bar. A booklet advertising other E1 titles resides inside the case.
The Video, and Audio
Bleh. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation on the DVD is distinctly lackluster, heavy with posterization, black crush, and constant fuzziness. Maybe some of that comes from the original photography, but if it does, it's impossible to tell on this DVD, which just looks poor.
Dolby Digital 5.1 is, as these tracks usually are, just passable. Directional action is reasonably strong, and the sound effects have oomph, but this isn't a movie that's going to light up anyone's sound system, despite the numerous indie music cues throughout. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing are also included.
The primary extra is an audio commentary with Lester and Amedori, which is okay. Lester has little of interest to say, giving perfunctory information about why he was inspired to make the film, but Amedori is in higher spirits and generally has interesting answers to Lester's questions.
A making-of featurette (12:10) is a tad dry but is reasonably informative and is free of clips from the film. It won't blow anyone out of the water, but it's a step up from most studio EPKs. The extras are rounded out with a photo gallery (really, everyone who creates DVDs, you can stop including these, especially if they don't include anything other than official stills).
Trailers for American Cowslip: A Redneck Comedy (whoa...), Suck, and Last Day of Summer (jeez) play before the main menu. The original theatrical trailer for Addicted to Love is also included.
Addicted to Her Love is not a great movie, but it does have a couple of great performances and tells a more interesting story than I expected. Lizzy Caplan fans may be disappointed in her lackluster performance, and the technical specs of this release are nothing to write home about, but it's a solid rental, assuming you're in the mood for something dark.
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