Self-Medicated (2005)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Addiction Drama, Psychological Drama  |   Release Date - Aug 31, 2007 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 108 min.  |   Countries - USA  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Since 24-year-old Monty Lapica serves as writer, director, producer, and star of his debut film, Self-Medicated might also be described as "self-made." What's most impressive about Lapica undertaking these multiple roles is that the main character's experiences are based on his own experiences, from just seven years earlier. There's no reason to think he should be good at any of these things, since the film depicts him as a wayward teen prone to anger, violence, and drug use, albeit with a high intelligence level. Yet he is good at them -- particularly the acting, where his inexperience should be hardest to conceal. Lapica doesn't look 17, but he effortlessly captures the mannerisms of a rebellious teen with a good heart, and having actually lost his father probably helped the novice actor grieve more effectively onscreen. Considering the sensationalist subject matter of teenagers "abducted" into programs designed to scare them straight -- not to mention Lapica's own traumatic experience with, and stated desire to expose, one such a program -- Self-Medicated easily could have veered off into extreme territory, painting the staff of the Brightway Institute as one-dimensional monsters. Give the filmmaker credit for resisting this temptation and portraying these people as merely misguided, rather than malevolent. He uses a familiar template to associate this section of the movie with the prison genre, complete with the obligatory scenes of solitary confinement and attempted escape. However, the structure of the movie is not nearly so predictable, and contains emotional pay-offs you may not see coming. Lapica also gets great supporting performances (Diane Venora stands out as Andrew's mother) and technical performances (DP Denis Maloney really expands the budget with his camerawork). Given everything Lapica had going against him, Self-Medicated is a remarkable achievement, deserving of the various awards it garnered on the festival circuit.