These types of movies have yet to wear on me — from Girl, Interrupted to Prozac Nation, the human psyche is a topic always worth exploring and one that has never become trite — until now.
Self-Medicated is about Andrew Erikson (Monty Lapica), an intelligent 17-year-old struggling with the loss of his father, who ends up spiraling into a web of beer drinking and marijuana use while rejecting a promising future; his mother Louise (Diane Venora), who is entangled in her own web of (prescribed) drug abuse, manages to sober up long enough to "save" her son by sending him to a corrupt psychiatric hospital for treatment.
There is nothing remarkable or notable about the angst as depicted by Lapica — a pot-smoking, beer-drinking, rebellious teen who is hurt by the loss of his father. This scenario, while understandably difficult, hardly warrants the type of dramatization the movie gives it. Andrew's situation is made worse by his unconvincingly dramatic hospitalization, rightly so, given he is in the company of murderers and child abuse victims; hardly appropriate company for a bright, college-bound individual who is grieving over the loss of a loved one.
Andrew's "epiphany" comes in the form of a homeless black man named Gabe (William Stanford Davis), who Andrew picks up on the side of the road for a car washing job that never pans out. The two end up engaging in an odd, surreal kind of banter, which is the beginning of what will be a turnaround for Andrew; the entire conversation is implausible, poorly written, and preachy, with strong notes of religion masked by the veil of Gabe's pithy advice. The entire scene is a giant cliché for an after school special, or perhaps a commercial from the Foundation for a Better Life.
The acting in the film was sufficiently genuine and convincing, with the notable exception of writer/director Monty Lapica, whose portrayal of Andrew was unconvincing and ingenuine, which was a quite a feat considering the character is based on himself. The roles of "good psychiatrist, bad psychiatrist" as played by Greg Germann and Michael Bowen respectively, were both acted skillfully enough to make the situation almost plausible, which is a major triumph. Diane Venora gives the only convincing portrayal of pain and anguish throughout the entire movie.
Lapica based Self-Medicated on his own adolescent struggles, as well as his experience with the Brightway facility, which was closed by the authorities before he finished writing the script. Part autobiography, part docudrama, this movie is an unrealistic and exaggerated treatment of rebellion and grief that is a long, thinly veiled anti-drug commercial.