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:: Clean

With an impressive international cast, Clean is aesthetically pleasing and well-acted, but unmemorable. Nick Nolte and Maggie Cheung star in this slightly tired tale of the redemption of a drug addict. The film explains, rather than judges, the lifestyle and self-destructive patterns of Emily as she goes from addict to clean.

The film opens with Cheung‘s character Emily in her relationship with Lee, a failing rock star in his 40s. They are both past their hey-day and ex-tv star Emily is demonised by the media and his friends as the drug-addicted bad influence. After a fight Lee OD's on heroin that Emily bought for him. He dies and she is sentenced to 6 months’ in prison. Nolte plays Lee's father Albrecht, who along with his wife takes custody of Emily's son. When she emerges she fights to get clean and convince Albrecht that she's capable of seeing her son. Her path is complete when she finally admits to her son, as she hasn't to anyone else, that she bought the heroin that killed Lee.

The path of redemption is easy for some. Although Emily struggles after Lee's death, it only takes one decision to rid herself of methadone to begin a fast-track to happiness. Emily is given kindness and lucky breaks, even despite her own bad decisions and ingratitude. She has family, she has the kindly Albrecht, she has her son and she has loyal friends. She receives ego trips by random fans even at her worst, and her money situation is never bad enough that she needs to think before flying from Paris to San Fransisco. The film ends with Emily having recorded her first album after a very shallow dip into rock-bottom.

The real highlight in the movie is the depiction of the music industry. Emily’s lifestyle is entrenched in music and the glamour is juxtaposed strongly to the mundane life she must take up when Lee dies. The high-energy live shows are shot beautifully and introduced me to at least one great band. Lee’s parents offer the perspective of the other side of the industry as the bemused family of a dead rockstar. They are schmoozed to re-release his albums with new artwork produced by ‘a friend,’ but recognise the way their son’s self-destruction is glamourised.

The film succeeds in producing a realistic portrayal of a bourgeoisie drug addiction, but doesn't make it very interesting. The film has its moments but the main plot of Emily’s path to a new life is too rushed to be powerful. Perhaps I'm desensitised from intense (and preachy in their intensity) drug films like Requiem for a Dream, but I thought this lacked punch.