A Scanner Darkly (2006)

1h 40m / R / Animation, Crime Drama

Director Richard Linklater’s whole body of work (with a couple of more mainstream-ish exceptions) is about exploring the texture of normal life by examining how unusual “normal” can get, specifically through the medium of monologues or long conversations. So if you wanted to make a movie about frantic existential dialogue between eccentric people, what better setting than a tweaker flophouse in Anaheim in the unbalanced future-past of the sci-fi ‘70s/‘90s? And what better source material than a thinly-disguised memoir by one of the world’s foremost chroniclers of the drug experience, Philip K. Dick, written while he was in the middle of what was likely a psychotic break (side note: Alex Jones has a cameo in this movie, and if that former-fiction-overwriting-reality moment isn’t the perfect summary of PKD on film, I don’t know what is)? And what better way to make this movie than to rotoscope a bunch of excellent actors and kind of just see what happens?

A Scanner Darkly isn’t entirely successful at what it sets out to do, but that shouldn’t be read as dismissive because what it sets out to do is likely impossible, or at least impossible to categorize. A lot of movies want to show you paranoia and intoxication and psychological damage; very few set out to make the audience feel paranoid and intoxicated and maybe a little damaged themselves. It’s a trippy, claustrophobic film experience — the kind of movie that’s fun but makes you feel extremely relieved that you get to leave that world after 100 minutes. So maybe it was successful after all. Join REWIND (and a cast of people all doing a really convincing job portraying drug users: Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, notably Robert Downey Jr.) for a wild little ride called A Scanner Darkly.