Self Medicated has won more than 30 awards, from grand jury prizes in Rome to "Best Spotlight Feature" in the Reno Film Festival. Okay—so some awards are better than others. But there's no denying the film's festival-circuit success—which we'll get back to later.
First-time writer, director, and producer Monty Lapica plays Andrew, a 17-year-old in Las Vegas who's hell-bent on self-destruction. Andrew's anger issues lead his troubled mom (Diane Venora) to ship him off to boot camp, where he's subjected to some brutal treatment (mostly by Greg Germann, that smarmy actor who played the wiseass lawyer on Ally McBeal), and ultimately, runs away.
The movie feels a little incongruous for the first hour, and 24-year-old Lapica—who looks about 35—is unconvincing playing a teenager. "Why is it set in Las Vegas?" I kept wondering. But it takes an hour and 20 minutes for the penny to drop.
That penny? Self Medicated is a Christian propaganda movie, attempting to reach a mainstream audience by hiring one sort-of recognizable actor, hoodwinking its way into some second-rate awards, and carefully employing the odd cuss word to keep you from figuring out what's going on.
But the whole movie feels stilted, and even Lapica's purported bad behavior seems like it was written by a clueless evangelical trying to get in touch with his inner sinner. (Oh, that's why it's set in Vegas—Andrew's in Sin City!)
The movie's turning point comes when a hobo called Gabe (William Stanford Davis)—get it?—mysteriously appears (kind of like, oh I don't know, an angel?) to tell Andrew that he could solve all his problems if he quits the weed, is nicer to his mom, and prays more. And guess what? He does! Problems solved!
Never underestimate the deviousness of the American Christian machine. Though it's not supposed to be a horror flick, Self Medicated scares me to death.