TL;DR – An interesting exploration of Psychedelics through personal stories but it didn’t quite sit well with me at times.
Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit and end credit scene
If there is one policy area that has received more attention than any other in recent years/decades/centuries it is that of drugs. Governments across the world have tried everything from the death penalty to throwing up their hands to turning a blind eye and all in between I mean, America is still fighting a War on Drugs for little to no effect. Well, how do you approach an issue like this, well one way is to actually talk to the people involved. This is the documentary that we explore today, though I should preface this goes into depth with the experience of drug and it is a hard R rating for a reason and you should know that going in.
So to set the scene, Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics is a documentary that talks to people in the arts sphere about their experiences with drugs of the psychedelic variety. This documentary is broken up in several different ways, there are long-form interviews with people like Sting, where the documentary animates their stories, there are a wide range of talking heads from musicians, comedians, actors, and more, while also having old school educational videos (both real and created), while Nick Offerman pops in occasional as a teacher type figure.
This multifaceted approach keeps the documentary from dragging, but it also makes the documentary much more personal. Some stories make you laugh, some stories make you question things, and those that can’t help but make you feel. Part of that is because some of the people they have in the interview are no longer with us. So you get a juxtaposition of Sting discovering mortality while delivering a cow while on peyote, to Paul Scheer discovering Van Gogh on mushrooms, to Carrie Fisher discovering herself on acid.
These sequences are dramatized through several different techniques, some of them have other actors come in to re-enact it, some are recreated through many different animation styles, and then some meld the two together. I think it was a good choice not to have the same animation each time because each story was personal, so having a personalised depiction suits the documentary.
There is an interesting balance that the documentary is trying present by focusing on the realities of people experience with drugs. To start with, the film is focusing on a very specific type of drug, your LSD, acid, mushrooms, and not the other soul-destroying verities of heroin and crack. The film focuses on exploring people’s experiences and using comedy to dissect the extreme responses that you see in the media. There is a running gag of a parody of an educational video in ‘bad trip” and as someone who has to sit through a lot of these, it is a pitch-perfect recreation. However, it is balancing those experiences with the reality that all of these people are admitting to committing crimes. There is a bunch of advice about what someone should do if they are going to have a trip while always being careful to not ever completely recommend it.
So it wants to explore the drugs and maybe even some of the positive aspects of them that government try to clamp down on. However, it then takes a long time to get to those realities that are not so pleasant, with the actual bad trips, thus it doesn’t nail that balance as well as it could. All of this makes the parody ‘bad trip’ segments feel like it is going too far, also it may be needed only one of them rather than going back to it time after time. To add to this, bar a couple of notable exceptions most of the interviews come from a very specific background and some more diversity there could have helped.
In the end, do we recommend the documentary Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics? That is a difficult one to say. One the one hand I found the presentation to be interesting from an academic perspective, especially when it touches on how these could be used for treatments for people who are suffering. However, I also walked away feeling at times that the documentary almost trivialised things when it was trying to create a humorous narrative. Like many things in life, I don’t know if I can recommend it, but this might be something you will have to decide for yourself (and safely if you do). If you liked Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics, then you might also enjoy Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics
Directed by – Donick Cary
Written by – Donick Cary
Music by – Yo La Tengo
Cinematography by – Stash Slionski & Skyler Rousselet
Edited by – Greg Stees
Production/Distribution Companies – Sunset Rose Pictures, Sugarshack 2000 Inc & Netflix
Starring – Sting, A$ap Rocky, Bill Kreutzmann, Rosie Perez, Reggie Watts, Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon, Brett Gelman, Will Forte, David Cross, Carrie Fisher, Natasha Lyonne, Anthony Bourdain, Ben Stiller, Deepak Chopra, Sarah Silverman, David Koechner, Judd Nelson, Jim James, Diedrich Bader, Steve Agee, Lewis Black, Charles Grob, Rob Huebel, Nick Kroll, Rob Corddry, Matt Besser, Adam Horovitz, Kathleen Hanna, Paul Scheer, Donovan, Zach Leary, Marc Maron, & Shepard Fairey with Nick Offerman, James Adomian, Adam Scott, Riki Lindhome, Armen Weitzman, Ron Funches, Maya Erskine, Haley Joel Osment, Adam DeVine, Blake Anderson, Angela Trimbur, Cate Beeham, Otis Montfort Manning Cary, Natasha Leggero, Brett Gelman, Bill Kottkamp, Amadi Jean Cary, Nelson Franklin & Fred Willard
Rating – Australia: R18+;