“Midnight” is the edgy new creation from writer/director David Veloz. Its impressive cast includes the tiresome workhorse Ben Stiller (“There’s Something About Mary”, everything else released in ’98), Maria Bello (Television’s “E.R.”), Owen Wilson (“Bottle Rocket”), Janeane Garofalo and Elizabeth Hurley among others. If you are looking for an uplifting, optimistic, light-hearted film … avoid this like the plague. If you are interested in an intensely riveting, true-to-life, engaging story, than “Permanent Midnight” is a must see.
The film is based on television writer Jerry Stahl’s autobiography of the same title and is told through the mouth of Stahl (Stiller) himself as he recounts his life to his new love interest, Kitty (Bello). As Stahl recounts, he was a writer with a huge drug addiction, an addiction that is described as being “as big as the state of Utah”. Later we learn that Stahl moved to Los Angeles with two aspirations: to become a writer, and to get away from drugs. When questioned about why this move failed to keep him off drugs, Stahl calmly replies “I miscalculated”. It is these revelations that drive an ordinary story into the realm of an extraordinary feature.
While the supporting cast of Hurley, Wilson and Garofalo more than hold their own, it is the great onscreen chemistry between Ben Stiller and Maria Bello, with Stiller’s extremely credible portrayal of Stahl and Bello as his newly discovered soul mate that make this film flow. While Stiller’s performance is not Oscar material, the year of Ben Stiller continues with a very good performance on top of a seemingly endless supply of other notables. With the films “The Zero Effect” and the ever chilling “Your Friends & Neighbors”, Stiller has changed the mind of this reviewer and has proven that he is a talented actor with an extremely bright future.
While the tail end of the film does receive cheap laughs, it really does ruin a very emotional end to a rollercoaster ride that is, after all, a man’s tragic life. In fact, if it were not for this tacked on, sleazy wrap-up, the film would have garnered an even higher rating. Do not let this fact dissuade you from seeing this film. It is well written, well acted and extremely engrossing. Just find out exactly when the film ends and leave about five minutes before and you will be very satisfied.