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Directed by Gus Van Sant

United States 1989 100 mins.

Van Sant’s acclaimed second feature is a daring and uncompromising look at outlaw junkie life based on the novel by James Fogle. Set in Portland in the early ‘70s, Matt Dillon gives the performance of his career as Bob Hughes, the superstitious leader of an awkward band of addicts who go directly to the source for drugs by robbing drugstores. Bob’s extended family includes his wife, Dianne (Kelly Lynch), the dim Rich (James LeGros) and his teenage girlfriend Nadine (Heather Graham). With a good dose of black humor, Van Sant follows the group’s escapades, which finally come undone when Nadine overdoses. Understanding that “Just Say No” doesn’t say anything to the drugged out, Van Sant neither romanticizes nor condemns drug use, but probes the addict’s psyche without giving way to moralistic overtures. “Compelling, unnerving and often darkly funny . . . Every minute is vital and alive.”—David Ansen, Newsweek.