Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Stealing Beauty: Liv Tyler, Rachel Weisz, Jeremy Irons and Marijuana

Continuing in my series of B-movies on Netflix that have pot smoking in them, I viewed 1996's Stealing Beauty, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and starring Liv Tyler (right) as Lucy, a 19-year-old American virgin who travels to an artists' colony in Tuscany in search of her father and her future.

Lucy encounters just about every archetypical male, including the gentle, dying writer Alex (Jeremy Irons), who needs the healing energy she and the marijuana she has brought provide.

"Excuse me, but you wouldn't happen to have any more of that exotic brand of cigarette I've been smelling, would you?" is the way Alex introduces himself to Lucy. Broaching the subject of sex as they smoke, he muses, "Nothing is more transporting...except perhaps good grass."

About her mother, Lucy asks, "She helped you fix this place up?" "Well, with a lot of hash breaks," was the response (from Irons's wife Sinead Cusak as Diana, the Earth Mother archetype). Also smoking in the movie is the terrific actress Rachel Weisz (left), as the sophisticate counterpoint to Liv's innocent character Lucy.

I'd rather expected the worst, a kind of Last Tango in Paris meets Lolita. But perhaps because Tyler projects a kind of calm integrity in her roles, the film is elevated to a rare coming-of-age story for a woman with heart and soul. Lucy's final encounter with Alex (involving marijuana) is particularly touching.

Irons, of course, is superb. On the Craig Ferguson show in 2012, he confided that he gets ill when he drinks but smokes marijuana in a manner "rare, you know, Friday nights." Countered Ferguson, "There's one of those every week. It's not that rare."

Discussing his breakthrough role as Charles Ryder opposite the alcoholic Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited, Irons said of marijuana, "it suits me a lot better, and I think does me much less harm."

Ferguson is famously on all the wagons, but he was superb himself in Saving Grace (2000), a film he co-wrote starring Brenda Blethyn as an English widow who grows marijuana to save her home, doubtlessly the inspiration for TV's Weeds.

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