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By Mark Bell | September 28, 2006

When you’re growing up, the teenage years can feel like the greatest tragedy. Emotions run high, love is eternal, betrayal rampant and unforgivable, acceptance nonexistent. One thing film has been able to do throughout the years is take the pseudo-tragedy we all seem to live in and craft real tragedy out of it. Love is the Drug is one of those lives turned tragic and portrayed for all to scrutinize. But think of it as less Romeo and Juliet and more Othello.

Set in Los Angeles, Love is the Drug tells the story of Jonah (John Patrick Amedori), one of those smart, socially awkward outcasts that longs to be accepted by the cool kids. After finally getting up the nerve to attend a graduation party, Jonah finds himself assimilated into the cool clique when word gets out that he works at a pharmacy and, therefore, has pretty solid access to drugs. It doesn’t take long before Jonah begins showing overt interest in Sara (Lizzy Caplan), despite her dating Troy (Jonathon Trent). Then Troy happens to OD at a party, and the group’s last summer of fun becomes their first summer in Hell.

The film plays out at a slow, almost hypnotic, pace allowing you to get immersed in the film and creating the necessary attachment with the characters you’ll need for it to have an emotional impact, but the acting, sadly, can be a bit uneven. Amedori’s Jonah is across the board exceptional, causing the viewer to run the emotional gauntlet from sympathy to fear, but Trent’s Troy and Jenny Wade’s Erin are almost devoid of character beyond the most stereotypical of designations. Caplan’s Sara shines as the object of Jonah’s desire (she is just trusting enough, that person who grants the benefit of the doubt because they never got it themselves), but D.J. Cotrona’s Lucas, the guy who is most adept at taking advantage of Jonah without fully allowing Jonah entrance into the clique, is too over-the-top a*****e. Thankfully there are a few honest human moments where we get to see a glimmer of a real person under the a*****e persona, but they are too few and too short. Sadly, this makes it hard, if not impossible, to ever really connect with that character.

What could’ve simply been a typical tragic tale of a geek getting caught up in the fast lane with the cool kids winds up being a tight psychological thriller in the end. Amedori’s Jonah starts out sympathetic enough, but as the story slowly unfolds you start to wonder who is really taking advantage of whom (and, in this critic’s case, really start to question your own ability to identify with the character only to really wish you hadn’t). By the time the end rolls around and all questions have been answered, the somewhat predictable teen subgenre of “outcast wanting to join in with the cool kids” has finally been thrown a quality curveball.

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