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Blow: The American Dream with a Drug Twist

by Jaime Pereira
Reading Eagle Reading Times
Reading, PA
April 12, 2001

Ted Demme’s film Blow is a glorification of drugs, sex and rock ‘n’ roll, with an underlying theme that drugs ultimately lead to destruction. Got that?

The movie is based on the true story of George Jung (played by Johnny Depp), who made his fortune smuggling cocaine into the United States in the 1970s.

Following a New York screening of the movie for student writers March 21, Demme was present to answer some questions about the themes of the movie and his reason for directing it.

Blow follows Jung, starting with his impoverished upbringing. It is a rags to riches story with a twist. Jung decides as a youngster that he never wants to be poor like his parents, and pursues the American dream in his own way—by selling drugs.

Demme wanted to make a movie that stood out in the drug genre, by focusing more on the relationships affected by drugs than the drugs themselves.

“I wanted to show a love story, the triangle between a father and son and son and his daughter,” Demme said.

Depp inhabits the weird character of Jung skillfully, transforming from the movie star that America knows and loves. His mullet hairstyle and bad ‘70s clothing add to his creepy characterization of Jung.

Depp effectively conveys the complicated character of Jung, whom the audience can easily love or hate.

Jung makes both good and bad decisions throughout the film, but none of them are clearly black or white.

Demme wanted to show that Jung was an ordinary man who brought tragedy into his own life by placing the pursuit of money and power over the importance of his relationships.

“I’m drawn towards anti-heroes. And I’ve come to believe that there are no real good guys or bad guys, that the majority of people fall somewhere in between,” Demme said. “I’m just curious to know why the bad guys end up bad and the good guys end up good.”

Comedy can be found in the film as well, though the underlying themes are serious.

“I knew the real ending, it’s sad, and it’s a tragedy. So I decided to take some license and have some fun with the first half of the film,” Demme said. “I tend to make light of heavy situations.”

Many foreign actors and actresses are cast in the movie. Demme said he wanted to use some new faces.

“There are a lot of great actors in our country,” Demme said. “Unfortunately there are only a few who just keep working over and over again.”

Most of the plot, which Demme said follows Jung’s true story closely, in interesting, however it gets repetitive as Jung makes the same mistakes over and over.

The end of the movie falls disappointingly flat, and tries a little too hard to pull at the audience’s heart strings, which is unfortunate because throughout most of the movie, Demme manages to get his message across to the audience without bashing it over our heads. Depp carries the movie well, and the supporting cast all give solid performances. There are some sluggish spots in the plot. However, in most of the movie, Demme manages to keep the pace while conveying the destructiveness of the American dream.

Jaime Pereira is a senior at Central Catholic High School

-- donated by Theresa

-- photos added by Zone editors