Irvine Welsh vaulted to cultural stardom with the novel, “Trainspotting”. Oh, some guys made a movie of it that wasn’t too bad, either. For his second shot at celluloid, Welsh decided to adapt three short stories from his collection, “The Acid House”, himself, with documentary director Paul McGuigan at the helm.
In the “Granton Star Cause”, Boab Coyle (Stephen McCole) starts off the day thinking life is pretty good, all drinking, smoking, football, and sex. In the next several hours, though, the lazy bastard is booted off the team, kicked out of his parents’ house, dumped by his girlfriend, beaten by the police, and fired from his job. Then he meets a stranger in a bar and it gets REALLY bad.
Johnny (Kevin McKidd) is “A Soft Touch”. A pregnant woman, Catriona (Michelle Gomez), hits Johnny up for a beer in a bar. As he ponders the request, we flashback to the last time she was pregnant, this time by Johnny, and the pure hell of a marriage she inflicted upon him.
Finally, we meet rave-happy Coco Bryce (Ewen Bremner) in “The Acid House”. One night after comsuming a distinctly strong hit of acid, Coco is hit by lightning. The trip takes a very different turn, and it won’t be over any time soon.
It looks like “Trainspotting”. It sounds like “Trainspotting”. However, it is no “Trainspotting”. In that film (screenwriter John Hodge heavily pared down from the book), we followed Renton (Ewan McGregor) on a harrowing journey from which he barely escaped a changed man. In “The Acid House”, we have three protagonists in three stories of 30-40 minutes in length, linked only by the loose theme of man’s inability to learn from his experience or change his behavior. It’s not a theme that lends itself to catharsis on the part of the audience.
Two of the stories revolve around fantastic elements which inadvertently links this work closer to Danny Boyle’s directorial follow-up to “Trainspotting”, “A Life Less Ordinary”. Over all, the short stories never gel together or create a unified whole. Welsh and McGuinan also make the mistake that an audience will automatically identify with the main characters in a film far more than in literature. When you’re three “heroes” are losers, idiots, or both, and don’t change or improve it’s not really satisfying. Welsh’s original stories probably got by on their cleverness and the points he wanted to make. The film too often devolves into an exercise in cruelty and mockery.
Keep in mind that this film is not without it’s cleverness. It’s just that the first adaptation of Welsh’s work was more than a hip soundtrack and shock value.