For a variety of reasons, some films fall under the radar, despite having a notable cast and a legitimate storyline. A notable example of this being the star drenched film Southland Tale. Perhaps it is the post-apocalyptic themes paired with an image of urban Southern California that result in both films feeling distant and unfamiliar. I have browsed upon a slew of negative reviews for Passion Play, which imply such impressions, but to me it is the other-worldliness of the film that makes it so good. A film that combines drug abuse, angelic beings and a pimped named Happy can only prove to be entertaining. However, it is writer and director Mitch Glazer's intimacy with the subject matter that pushes it from being simply entertaining to being absolutely fascinating. It portrays a world that seems to occupy dreams, perhaps those of Glazer himself, making the title all the more relevant.
The film, in my opinion, is a case study of drug addiction, set in a desolate Hollywood backdrop. Nate is a jazz musician who for whatever reason has lost his notoriety. Perhaps it was a past drug habit that led to his downfall, but whatever the reason it helps to explain the films magical realism. Everything seems surreal, invoking the notion that the viewers are witnessing a drug high of sorts. If this is the case, it helps to explain Happy's rather notable control over Nate, who seems almost infantile when within earshot of Happy. At the very least if it is not an issue with heroin, Nate is obviously an alcoholic. Glazer incorporates rather notable scenes into his larger narrative, particularly ones in which Nate begs for money from a fellow musician who sympathetically offers him a large sum of cash. It seems rather futile in the narrative, but when placed into a notion of Nate being a drug addict it makes perfect sense. Also, Nate's initial brush with death can now be read as a drug overdose that becomes the films narrative, the reason the viewers are drawn back to one of the films opening scenes is because it is all just a vision of a dying drug addicts life. Not to mention it helps explain the choice of Mickey Rourke for Nate given his own infamous past with drugs.
Passion Play is unusual and uncertain, but that is its brilliance. I was thrilled by the entire cast, including Megan Fox who did a surprisingly good job. I look forward to seeing more work by Glazer as a director and strongly recommend snagging a Blu-ray of Passion Play for your collection.