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By Ron Wells | November 19, 2002

Drug culture has been a favorite setting and subject for movies for over three decades, allowing such narcotics as marijuana, heroin, and cocaine to make their presence felt on either side of the camera. However, there’s one monkey long denied a piggyback ride into the multiplex, and that sad little vice is called Methamphetamine, better known as Speed, Crank, and Crystal Meth. Why no “cinema du crank”? Its stigma may not be so much hip nightclubs and exotic South American drug cartels as interstate truckers and Hell’s Angels. It could have just flown under Hollywood’s radar due to all the other crap the locals shoot, snort, smoke, or swallow.
Oh, how times change. “Tweeked” is the second film I’ve seen in a month (after “Cookers”) set between the jittery white lines of the fast lane. This could be the start of a trend that in a couple of years will become as repetitive as a speed freak’s conversation on day 3. For those prepared to ride the rails now, this relatively undisturbed field of snow blankets a world still heavy with original, untold stories both hilarious and horrifying, just like the movie I’m reviewing right now.
Carrie (Darling Narita) and Michelle (Ali Raymer) have been pals since high school. By the time we meet them, the young women are living on their own in Los Angeles in complete denial about their meth addiction. So what if they’re already dumpster-diving for whatever can be sold for drugs? The party isn’t over yet. Carrie appears to be the more level-headed of the pair, but Charles Manson wouldn’t look so bad in that company. Train wreck, thy name is Michelle. She looks like a good time. If only she could trade in her denial and self-absorption for something useful like survival skills and self-restraint. As it is, she seems to require little more than opportunity to always do the wrong thing. It’s only a matter of time before she makes a more significant error in judgement. That time arrives soon when a night (or two) of partying leads to a very unpleasant discovery. The girls are so rattled by the incident, they need to score something to calm down. Unfortunately, Michelle screws up the drug deal so badly that the pair needs to disappear for a couple of days. Michelle supposedly has some friends in San Diego, but they just can’t seem to get out of Los Angeles. Then again, most speed binges reach a stage where you just run around in circles. Boys, trouble, hilarity, horror and madness ensue.
This film was described as a kind of “Thelma and Louise” on meth. Writer/director Beth Dewey really seems to be shooting for THE meth movie, chronicling all the joys and deepest despair of the drug the way “Trainspotting” did for heroin. Now “Tweeked” isn’t as stylish as that film. Dewey shot with little money on digital video like around 5000 other filmmakers are currently doing in Los Angeles. What she lacked in cash she more than made up for with vision, commitment, and a pair of stunning performances from the two lead actresses.
Of course a project like this sinks or swims by its insight, accuracy, and truth. If the writer and director fall back on preaching, stereotypes, shallow explorations, or are just talking out their a***s, an audience of any real experience will laugh their movie off the screen. There will be none of that here. Dewey apparently based the story loosely on a decade-old incident that occurred in her own life. At the screening I attended, most of the audience (myself included) seemed to have more than a passing familiarity with the subject matter.
Now, if this world is completely outside your experience, I can’t honestly say how you might react. Maybe you’ll think it’s a little over the top. There’s isn’t an objective response to a work like this. Anyone’s reaction to any artistic medium is subjective to their personal experience, beliefs, physical state, or whatever. I can only give you my take based on what I know, and for me this movie was deadly accurate.
People do drugs for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes it’s useful to ignore the cause and the narcotic and examine just the behavior. In this aspect you can divide users into three groups. Now, not everyone who does drugs is an addict, as in the first category of recreational use only. I’ve known people who could shoot heroin on weekends and walk away from it back to their jobs on Monday morning. The second group can not walk away so easily. Maybe it all just got away from them, but they are addicted. However, those in this category can stop themselves from becoming too high and they can function perfectly well in society. Carrie would fall into this group. They may need a certain amount of drugs just to function, but they generally know when to slow down.
Michelle belongs to the final group. Whether physically addicted or not, the third group doesn’t know when to stop unless their bodies force them to. Think about people you might know that still frequently drink until they puke, long after leaving college. Most people who drink or take drugs develop a “red zone”, or a kind of internal meter that warns them when they’re starting to be too messed up. When others, like Michelle, fail to develop this survival skill, it usually means that sooner or later someone like Carrie will have to baby-sit them. As in the film, such people will often fail to be responsible or even aware of their actions and their implications. Maintaining the high eventually takes priority over everything, including basic survival. Generally, when I see an acquaintance in either of the first categories hanging with a representative of the third group, I at least try to warn them off. Unfortunately, if Carrie won’t listen to either her mother or her drug dealer, no else is really going to get through. She denies or doesn’t realize the extent of her friend’s problem until it’s way too late. Earlier identification would have forced Carrie to recognize her own problems and addiction.
The rap against drug flicks is that they’re all the same. If it’s not some over-romanticized journey of discovery then it’s always some cautionary tale. Narcotics should be best considered as a plot device where motivation comes in liquid, pill, powder, or rock form. In and of themselves, drugs are neither evil nor the final state of oblivion, though they could function as the courtesy shuttle that will drop you off there. In Beth Dewey’s gripping, honest “Tweeked”, Carrie’s denial concerns not her addiction so much as her co-dependence upon Michelle, by far the biggest monkey on her back. Actually, a drug habit and Michelle are much like real monkeys. You bring one home expecting it will be a lot of fun, and it will be part of the time. Then you realize it demands a great deal of attention and maintenance and makes too much noise to let you sleep. Eventually you’re just not paying enough attention until one day you turn around to find all your stuff covered in its s**t. Sure, it’s important to care for other living things, but you have to know when you can’t handle the situation. Once you’ve learned your lesson the hard way, just take the little bastard to someone who can.
I can’t say how close the film follows the events of the writer/director’s own life. It feels honest and heartfelt, enough that you truly care what happens not only to Carrie but to head-case Michelle. Beth Dewey understood exactly who her characters were, and the story that was to be told. Most significantly, she knew what she wanted to say. A person may find absolution from a lot of bad decisions by making just one or two good ones. Learn from your mistakes and move on. The most important aspect of any habitual behavior is the knowledge of how to do it safely. As “Tweeked” demonstrates, the most detail of that education is knowing when to stop.

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