Palatable: The Acid House

The Acid House (1998)
Directed by Paul McGuigan
Written by Irvine Welsh
Produced by David Muir, Alex Usborne, Carolynne Sinclair Kidd, Colin Pons
Starring Stephen McCole, Maurice Roëves, Alex Howden, Annie Louise Ross, Garry Sweeney, Jenny McCrindle, John Gardner, Stewart Preston, Simon Weir; Kevin McKidd, Michelle Gomez, Gary McCormack, Tam Dean Burn; Ewen Bremner, Arlene Cockburn, Martin Clunes, Jemma Redgrave
Perhaps because he scripted this raunchy, riotous, revolting adaptation of three among twenty-two stories from his eponymous anthology, it’s likely the best picture based on Welsh’s fiction. During his life’s last, worst day, a footballing loser (McCole) is cut from his carousing league, by his deviant dad (Howden) dislodged, nubile girlfriend (McCrindle) jilted, manager (Preston) axed and a police sergeant (Gardner) brutalized, then confronted in a pub by cantankerous God (Roëves), who transmogrifies the swilling dud in disgust for his shortfall of ambition. Newly mutated, the bitter flop of The Granton Star Cause exacts petty vengeance with newfound stealth, but not with impunity. If he wasn’t such A Soft Touch, a gutless, married father (McKidd) wouldn’t suffer repeated humiliations by his slatternly wife (Gomez), or the loutish, lascivious lunatic (McCormack) with whom she’s clamantly cuckolding him, whose varied, parasitic impingements aren’t possible without a perfect poltroon. A tab of potent LSD and bolts of lightning swap the minds of a doltish football hooligan (Bremner) and a hideous, vinyl neonate at the moment of exchange born to an insufferable, upscale married couple (Clunes, Redgrave). Reveling in this supernatural infantilization, his devoted girlfriend (Cockburn) designs to remold him into a better person, but a casual encounter between the commuted clods intervenes in The Acid House. Consistently comical and leavened with psychedelic fantasy, this felicifically foul time capsule from Scotland’s late ’90s dramatizes Welsh’s navel-gazing prime with fine, funny, filthy performances against squalid locations in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and good musical selections by The Pastels, Glen Campbell, The Chemical Brothers, Nick Cave, The Verve, etc. Viewers unaccustomed to nearly unintelligible Glaswegian accents will need subtitles.

Recommended for a double feature paired with Trainspotting.

Palatable: Sweet Sixteen

Sweet Sixteen (2002)
Directed by Ken Loach
Written by Paul Laverty
Produced by Rebecca O’Brien, Michael André, Ulrich Felsberg, Gerardo Herrero, Luke Schiller, Peter Gallagher
Starring Martin Compston, Annmarie Fulton, William Ruane, Michelle Abercromby, Martin McCardie, Calum McAlees, Jon Morrison, Michelle Coulter, Gary McCormack, Tommy McKee, Robert Rennie, Junior Walker, Gary Maitland, Scott Dymond

“It’s frightening to think that you mark your children merely by being yourself.”

–Simone de Beauvoir, Les Belles Images

Anticipating the release of his mother (Coulter) following the imprisonment she’s endured on behalf of her boorish boyfriend (McCormack), a tough, enterprising adolescent (Compston) and his madcap buddy (Ruane) strive to procure her respectable accommodation removed from sordid council estates by hawking cheap cigarettes, then pilfered heroin via the delivery service of his friends’ (Walker, Maitland, Dymond) pizzeria — first independently, then under the aegis of a stern mobster (Morrison). Loach’s idiomatic, kitchen sink realism trimly fits this funny, violent, ultimately piteous treatment of Scotland’s urban underclass with a blunt objectivity and forceful performances in Glaswegian accents that may for the inconversant necessitate subtitles. He’s still a paragon among social filmmakers for his consistently balanced depictions of societal dysfunction and its personal consequences, unifying character development with sociology rather than neglecting either (or worse, delivering dogmatic preachments behind the veneer of entertainment). Compston’s bastardly, audacious drug dealer is undone not by the risky criminality he perpetrates to effectuate his modest ambitions, but for a filial love as blind as unrequited, and the disloyalty pernicious in an anomic culture that stymies its young aspirants.