Like the book it is named after and based on, Permanent Midnight is a chronicle of downfall. Jerry Stahl, the story goes, showed promise when doing shifts as a porn writer for Hustler and Penthouse, and his promise landed... more » him in the exact center of television's hottest shows of the 1980s. Alas, Stahl also brought with him a gargantuan appetite for drugs, most damagingly heroin. The film begins with Stahl, played by Ben Stiller, working in a fast-food chain on his way back to society from the drug-addled skids and recovery. He's lured away from work, where in a hotel room with Maria Bello (as Kitty) he begins detailing his fall from TV's top (where he wrote for shows like Alf and Moonlighting, among others). Director David Veloz does great work in leading viewers through the episodes in addiction and excess, making the action seem naturally odd. There are priceless shots of Stahl and his coke-smoking buddy on an upper floor of a high-rise smoking and leaping into the windows--which don't break, of course. Stiller does a classy job of staying monochromatically zoomed in on scoring and shooting dope. He's sweaty and freaked out at the right times and grimy and desperate, too. The movie's a sad one, with Stahl's journey taking him through an arranged marriage (which benefited him enormously) to the couple's having a baby to getting busted on a rare occasion alone with the infant. It's a visceral script, replete with lots of intravenous drug use and Stahl/Stiller creating a recurring motif out of shooting the bloody drawback from the syringe onto the ceiling, making a mad little scribble. --Andrew Bartlett« less
"Hello, My Name is ..., and I have never shot Heroin. I fear the needle (ignore the tattoo) and fail to relish in the sadistic reactions to the drug. However, were I to awaken to a new day of increased favor towards needles and IV drug use, the viewing of this film, and the performance handed to us by Ben Stiller, has already assured me that I shan't dive into the abyss of said narcotic. You hate to use words live "riveting" and "brilliant", although clearly at ease with his psychotic side, Stiller makes me believe that a man would attempt to crash through a window post "drug-induced-euphoria". One wishes Janeane Garofalo had a few more moments on-screen, but what she added was probably enough. I haven't read the book (an oddity for me, actually), but I fear that I shall quite soon. I was drawn into the story from the get-go, though I wonder if that was due to the shooting by Veloz, or by Stiller. Either way, this "dark comedy (from whence that title came, I am still unsure)" darkened my day, and caused a bit of thought to occur - never a bad thing."
A Good Horrible Movie
C. Cockrell | APO, AE USA | 04/08/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"People that compare movies to the original books are always going to be disappointed. That's no big mystery to anyone who's both read a single book or seen a single movie. Nuff said on that. The movie is definitly a good one because it is very dark, and very real. Reviewers that bashed this movie are obviously clueless regarding drug use, drug users, and addiction. This movie is definitely disgusting and depressing because of its plausibility, and that's what makes it good. To have the perfect wife (Elizabeth Hurly), the perfect job, and still do anything and everything to get high demonstrates how the need overpowers someone's life. Permanent Midnight is "A Good Horrible Movie"."
Episodic but riveting
Larry VanDeSande | Mason, Michigan United States | 01/11/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Movies rarely hold the same allure as the books from which they arise and that's the case here. "Permanent Midnight" portrays the harrowing experinece of a television script writer that was also a heroin addict.
Ben Stiller stars as Jerry Stahl, whose autobiography is the basis for the film. Stahl appears in a brief role as a physician treating his own (through Stiller) addiction. This is an interesting insofar as the physician -- the real life drug addict -- is very downbeat about Stiller's chance of kicking heroin for its substitute.
Elsewhere, a lot of today's A-list actors -- Owen Wilson (who had a middle initial in the credits), Maria Bello (who got great reviews in "A History of Violence"), Elizabeth Hurley, Sandra Oh, Cheryl Ladd and Jeanene Garofolo -- lend a lot of credibility to this episodic treatment. Probably most riveting, and most revolting, are Stiller's regular scenes of drug use...during breaks in meetings at work, in the bathroom during parties, while taking care of his child. In another scene, he interviews for a job with a TV producer while high. The flick concludes with sound bytes from interviews Stahl did with TV talking heads (Morey and Tom Snyder) with Stiller digitally added to the scene.
I thought Stiller transformed himself into a serious actor for the role and the good supporting cast clearly helps; still the film is too episodic to score higher than average. This biopic is mature fare and sometimes very difficult to watch, especially a scene where Stiller, in the car with an infant, mainlines heroin through a vein in his neck. It also loses points since none of the actors show any signs of age as its chronology progresses.
Still, there's often something interesting going on or something you probably haven't seen before by such name actors. There was a lot more drug use here than in "Trainspotting" where the cast was compprised 100 percent of heroin addicts. So check this out if you're up to it; you might find it rewarding."
Ben Stiller in an outstanding portrayal.
Timm Redmond | Fortson, GA United States | 03/03/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I picked this one up recently in the "Indie-Pack" alongside "Pi". I was suprised I hadn't heard anything about it since I usually take interest in Ben Stiller. Talk about the best kept secret! He made my friends and I believe he was actually doing the drugs he was doing. If for some strange reason you can't appreciate Stiller, then here is your cure. He'll take you on a journey in this portrayal of the true events in which writer Jerry Stahl loses his job as a successful television writer, and his beautiful wife and daughter to an obscene habit of heroin. Other notable stars include, Elizabeth Hurley, Owen Wilson, Janeane Garofalo and Cheryl Ladd. Based on the autobiography of Jerry Stahl also titled, "Permanent Midnight""
My mistake: I read the book first
Timm Redmond | 10/23/1999
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I feel bad about not liking this movie... Primarily because the book is without a doubt my favourite... My problem with the movie isn't the acting... Its the lack of what was in the book.. I can understand when a book goes to movies there are liberties taken but I feel that to many liberties were taken when David Volez wrote the screenplay... It's just something seemed to be missing. Although Ben Stiller's performance was class A I don't think it was enough to save this movie... Word to the wise... next time to make it accurate especially if it''s fact based..."