I've been so excited about the A Scanner Darkly film that I read the book again and then went to the opening screening today. Here are my impressions.
First, the obvious questions. The rotoscope animation effects work. Everything has this shifting unreal quality that fits the story very well. And technically, it's well done. Also the casting is great, except Keanu Reeves. I had hopes Keanu would be OK in this role; his woodenness could just be taken as schizoid lack of affect. But no, he's just dull. Robert Downey Jr steals the show. And Winona Ryder hardly has to work to sell lines like "I snort a lot of cocaine". Yeah, doll, we know.
Linklater's script lets us down a bit; the movie makes even less sense than the book in critical parts. In particular some crucial scenes are left out that help you follow who's who. I love how disorienting Dick's books can be where you're not quite sure you're following the author's narrative so you go back and reread a section two or three times. But in a linear and concrete medium like film the story needs to be clear and Linklater doesn't quite get it. I wonder if he just had to cut two or three crucial scenes because of time or budget.
But the most important thing about the story is the depressing banality and alienation of bright people hopelessly fucked up on drugs. And the film captures that very well. Some of the early doper scenes are sort of funny, giggling along with Woody Harrelson. But as time goes by it gets more and more horrifying and depressing. I was particularly pleased that the film ends with Dick's own eulogy for his friends lost to drugs.
This has been a novel about some people who were punished entirely too much for what they did. ... These were comrades whom I had; there are no better. They remain in my mind, and the enemy will never be forgiven. The "enemy" was their mistake in playing. Let them all play again, in some other way, and let them be happy.