Sunday, February 23, 2014

Review: "Trainspotting" is Still Cool (Happy B'day, Kelly Macdonald)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 69 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux

Trainspotting (1996)
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:  United Kingdom
Running time:  94 minutes (1 hour, 34 minutes)
MPAA – R for graphic heroin use and resulting depravity, strong language, sex, nudity and some violence
DIRECTOR:  Danny Boyle
WRITER:  John Hodge (from the novel by Irvine Welsh)
PRODUCER:  Andrew Macdonald
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Brian Tufano (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Masahiro Hirakubo
Academy Award nominee

DRAMA with elements of comedy

Starring:  Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd, Robert Carlyle, Peter Mullan, and Kelly Macdonald

The subject of this movie review is Trainspotting, a 1996 British drama and black comedy from the team of director Danny Boyle, producer Andrew Macdonald, and writer John Hodge.  The film is based on the 1993 novel, Trainspotting, by author Irvine Welsh.  Set in Edinburgh, Scotland, Trainspotting the film focuses on a heroin addict who tries to clean up despite the allure of the drugs and the influence of his friends.

Director Danny Boyle captured movie audiences’ attentions with his film Shallow Grave, but it was Trainspotting that blew him up big time.  It’s the story of five young Scotsmen and their decrepit lives – rarely has nasty and slovenliness seemed so appealing.

Mark “Rent-boy” Renton (Ewan McGregor) is a serious heroine addict, deeply involved in the Edinburgh drug scene, who tries to kick his habit and change his life.  Three of his friends are also hooked on smack:  Daniel “Spud” Murphy (Ewen Bremner), Simon David “Sick Boy” Williamson (Jonny Lee Miller), and Tommy MacKenzie (Kevin McKidd).  His other homey is a wacked-out, violent, thief, and ex-con named Francis Begbie (Robert Carlyle), whom everyone calls Begbie.  Renton enjoys the dope, the violent friends, and the wild sex, but despite the allure, he wants to go clean.  If only his friends would let him be and that includes Diane (Kelly Macdonald), the hot young thing whose jailbait body can’t get enough of Renton.

The first half of Trainspotting seems to drag, but the death of a minor, but important character, really kicks off the festivities.  It seems that it took a horrible and gruesome discovery in the narrative flow to wake up screenwriter John Hodge’s storytelling beast.  Suddenly, the vibrant soundtrack, clever editing, dead-on acting, and drug fugue merge to make something splendid.  Boyle’s directing style for this film earned comparisons to films like Pulp Fiction and A Clockwork Orange, and the narrative spool of this film does mirror the latter film in style and execution, but Trainspotting is about sad people.  In Pulp Fiction and Clockwork, the characters are dangerous and dangerously sexy; in Trainspotting, they’re pretty pathetic, more sexual stank than sexually attractive.  Even McGregor’s Renton is a bore.

However, there is a neat trick Boyle and Hodge pull on us.  The closer Renton comes to the surface to free himself from his morass, the more attractive and sympathetic he becomes.  He goes from being the lead loser, the least repellent of the lowlife, to a hero for whom we can root.  As he cleans himself up, the film becomes all the more beautiful.

Trainspotting is something different, but something good, and it requires patience on the part of a viewer.  There’s a reward at the end of the rainbow.  Boyle and Hodge make this Renton’s story, about a kind of resurrection.  They wed him to the viewer, and as he rises, so does the viewer.  It’s an electric experience that has to be experienced; for the adventurous film fan, it’s a reward watching Renton finally win and leave the filth behind, not unlike kicking a bad habit.

7 of 10

1997 Academy Awards, USA:  1 nomination: “Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published” (John Hodge)

1996 BAFTA Awards:  1 win: “Best Screenplay – Adapted” (John Hodge); 1 nomination: “Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film” (Andrew Macdonald and Danny Boyle)

1997 BAFTA Awards, Scotland:  2 wins: “Best Feature Film” (Andrew Macdonald-producer, Danny Boyle-director, and John Hodge-writer), “Best Actor – Film” (Ewan McGregor); 3 nominations: “Best Actor – Film” (Robert Carlyle), “Best Actress – Film” (Kelly Macdonald), and “Best Writer” (John Hodge)

Updated:  Sunday, February 23, 2014

The text is copyright © 2014 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

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