Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Less Than Zero; Drugs.
Bret Easton Ellis released the novel 'Less Than Zero' in 1985, directly in the middle of the 80's. It has since been regarded as a 'cult classic', with its shocking nature making it a hit with all generations. Ellis's stories tend to focus on characters with destructive personality traits and the downward spirals that their lives become when they indulge their inner demons. With the movie being released two years later, it offers a less than wholesome look at what the ‘brat pack' and 'Yuppie' lifestyle could turn into if people didn't straighten up.

I found a review, based on the 1987 movie, and targets the core focus on the novel; drugs. Roger Ebert quotes right at the beginning of the review "That inescapable fact is at the bottom of "Less than Zero," a movie that knows cocaine inside out and paints a portrait of drug addiction that is all the more harrowing because it takes place in the Beverly Hills fast lane, in a world of wealth, sex, glamor and helpless self-destruction". That opening is why I feel this novel and movie adaptation as so successful. People had previously seen the lower classes struggle with drugs, but the fact that drugs can affect the upper class just the same, if not more, was a great insight into 80's lifestyle culture. It also shows just how quickly the 'yuppie' lifestyle can turn on self destruct, with Julian going from a wealthy and smart gruduate with a job oppurtunity in the music industry, to a hard drug addict with large debts due to his dealer, in just a year.

Ebert states "The problem is, you cannot rescue someone who is addicted to drugs. You can lecture them, to no point, and plead with them, to no avail, but essentially an outsider is powerless over someone else's addiction. Downey is clearly out of control and headed for bottom. He has lost the recording studio, spent all his money, made a halfhearted stab at a rehab center, gone back to using and been banished from his home by his father, who practices tough love and tells him, "You can lead you life anyway you want, but stay the hell out of mine." This shows the extent of how damaging drug life can be to anyone in the world, but it also promotes the fact that although the 'yuppie' and 'brat pack' culture seemed to be a more social lifestyle, with all yuppies sticking together, but as soon as you are a lost cause to the lifestyle, you are on your own to deal with your problems.

The novel and the movie adaptation highlights the inevitable disintergration of the yuppie and brat pack lifestyle. If you are constantly working excessively, spending masses on material goods and experimenting with dangerous drugs, you are eventually going to crash and deteriorate into someone much lesser. Ebert quotes "The water in the pools is always an azure blue. The homes look like sets. The people look like models. The discos look like music videos. The whole movie looks brilliantly superficial, and so Downey's predicament is all the more poignant: He is surrounded by all of this, he is in it and of it, and he cannot have it. All he wants to have is a good time, but he is trapped in a paradox: Cocaine is the good time that takes itself away".

Julian had it all, but the continuous hazardous lifestyle took his life away from him. This was a common occurence in the later 1980's, with the yuppie culture disappearing. It makes me think that the yuppie culture's ending sent the group in one of two ways. One being carrying on working hard, or spiralling down into a world of drugs after the inevitable crash due constant working stress with lack of relaxation. The novel 'Less Than Fiction' portrays the 80's as a dark decade, where the life of crime and drug use can eventually target down and destroy anyone in America, rich or poor, smart or primitive, successful or unsuccessful.

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