We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
“You're too darn sad-looking to just be another retard in a pink visor,” the customer tells the fast-food clerk. That leads into a conversation, and in no time at all they're in bed together, and he's telling her the story of his life--which, in recent years, played more like his slow and agonizing death.
The guy with the drive-thru job is Jerry Stahl (Ben Stiller), who at one point was making $5,000 a week as a TV writer in Hollywood. Nice work, unless your drug habit is running you $6,000 a week. It's a true story. The movie “Permanent Midnight,” based on the autobiography of Stahl, tells how his life spiraled into increasing desperation, even while his TV bosses let him get away with almost everything--as long as he produced.
Stahl, a smart guy with good ideas, gets his TV job through Sandra (Elizabeth Hurley), a British woman he marries for money so she can get a green card. His first job interview goes strangely. “I'm wondering if your mind can function down at our level,” muses his prospective boss (Fred Willard). Asked what he thinks about the show (a puppetcast named “Mr. Chompers”), he insults the show and is hired. Soon he's turning his own life into fodder for comedy; his father's suicide is recycled into an episode.
The story of every drunk or addict is different in the details but similar in the outlines: Their days revolve around finding and using a sufficient supply of their substance of choice to avoid acute mental and physical discomfort. Eventually it gets to the point where everything else--job, family, self-image--is secondary. Stahl steals drugs from the medicine cabinet of his friends (“If I was Percodan, where would I be?”) and buys drugs from very dangerous people. (He's safe only because there's more money in customers who are not dead.) He shoots up in risky places, is sometimes caught or almost caught, and finds his anger mounting because it is so very hard and exhausting to get high all the time.