• MDMA (Shout Factory) Blu Ray Review

    Released by: Shout Factory
    Released on: November 13, 2018
    Director: Angie Wang
    Cast: Annie Q, Francesca Eastwood
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    MDMA Movie Review

    Angie Wang’s MDMA is a film about her life story and how she transitioned from drug manufacturer to social worker. It’s a powerful and uneven film, but ultimately the heart of its writer/director shines through, and despite some not so convincing moments, it’s a journey worth taking.

    Set in the mid 1980s, the film stars Annie Q, who gives a solid, brave performance as Angie. Angie comes from a broken home in New Jersey and gets an opportunity to attend a prestigious college in the California Bay Area. Angie has no shortage of smarts but is a little low on cash. This is a problem, as tuition at the school is quite expensive.
    Angie moves in to her dorm and learns that she is to be paired with Janine. Janine, played with sympathetic gusto by Francesca Eastwood, is a socialite, raised by wealthy parents. Her mother is an overbearing alcoholic who consistently shames Francesca about a non-existent weight problem and her father is an enabler. Not surprisingly, Janine has some substance abuse issues of her own. After showing up with a fully stoked bar in a suitcase, Francesca invites Janine to some libations.

    The roommates go to an on campus party where they quickly meet up with a couple of campus meatheads. The meatheads are selling a new party drug – MDMA, or “ecstasy”. Angie sees how well it goes over with the party goers and gets an idea. No sooner can you say “Breaking Bad” then Angie gets some chemicals, accesses the chemistry lab after hours, and starts making and selling MDMA to pay off her tuition.

    At the same time, she joins a “big sister” group where she is assigned to spend time with a young girl living in the nearby projects. The girls father is abusive, and her mother is crippled by drugs and alcohol. Angie tries to make the best of a horrible situation, taking the girl out for McDonald’s and ice cream, but realizes that the girl is most likely doomed to the same fate as her mother. Annie Q is at her best in these scenes. She displays toughness when protecting the girl from her father, saddened sympathy at the fate of the girl’s mother, and resoluteness when trying to show the girl that there is light even in the darkness.

    At the same time, her friendships are suffering as more of her time is spent in her new drug business and as she uses her friends to get her needed ingredients and lab equipment. One particular scene involving a tragic incident in a local club shows her dedication to her new occupation, but the way it is staged stretches credulity.

    Thankfully, it’s one of only a few scenes where this occurs. Given that Annie Wang wrote and directed this movie – a film about her life story, it’s actually a small miracle that there are only a couple of bumps in the road. Wang is fearless when it comes to telling her story warts and all. Annie, the film character, has a good heart, but is also quite flawed. She can be cold in the face of kindness, she sometimes uses her friends, and she responds to offers of help with brutal and unearned tirades.

    Because this line is walked so tightly and, for the most part, successfully, MDMA is worth a watch.

    MDMA Blu Ray Review:

    MDMA is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Colors are crisp and remain so throughout the runtime. The sharpness helps preserve the 1980s pinks, purples, and neon lights in all their retro glory. Everything is clean and flawless – even the night shots.

    The viewer can choose from 5.1 DTS HD or 2.0 DTS-HD. The audio is clean and well-mixed. Dialog is clear and well balanced. English subtitles are provided.

    There is audio commentary from the writer-director and it’s worth a listen. Ms. Wang talks about her past as a troubled youth from a bad neighborhood, her transition to a drug manufacturer/dealer and, ultimately, her pivot in social services. She uses this real life experience to speak about the various performances, wardrobe, and story choices made throughout the film. There are also several short featurettes featuring each of the main performers talking about their experiences making the film.

    The Final Word

    MDMA is an uneven film. Some moments play as solid as anything made by Danny Boyle or Martin Scorsese. Others play as flimsy as an after school special. Thankfully, the former moments outnumber the latter and, really, it can’t be easy to write and direct a film based on one’s own life. Ultimately, the insight the film provides into damaged family relationships and the things people do to get through life make it a film worth watching.

    Click on the images below for full sized MDMA Blu-ray screen caps!