Weed in Art: ADRIFT

The Weed In Art series analyzes depictions of, well, what else: weed in art.

It’s been a big month for weed in movies!

Four wide releases — American Animals, Hearts Beat Loud, Tagand now the subject of this article — all feature depictions of weed more nuanced and resonant (some more than others) than their stereotypical forebears.

The fourth brings the least prominent:

Adrift primarily focuses on Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin befalling a cataclysmic event followed by an extended bout of life-threatening survival. But before they find their way onto this doomed escapade, a movie of course must detail how they got there, thus we of course must learn how they met, an early indicator that its narrative structure won’t be the most novel and least formulaic. Unexpectedly, weed plays a part, albeit an itty bitty one, in their budding courtship (get it? BUDDING?!?!).

Near the beginning of the flick, we see Woodley smoking a joint on her porch. A roughneck, backpacking nomad traveling around the world solo looking everywhere to find the home she never had back home, never staying in one place for too long, would obviously be the type to indulge in some of the locale’s finest natural resources, and having her enjoy a commonly social act by her lonesome establishes her as a free, independent spirit; a loner that’s totally fine being alone.

But more than just lending her character, well, more character, the way she reacts to it is abnormal. Right after smoking, she approaches Claflin to casually elevate their burgeoning dalliance. Reversing the conventional course of such setups, she doesn’t make a fool of herself; she doesn’t turn into the lovable loser who gets too high and mumbles her way through an embarrassing attempt at a romantic pass, saved from her quirky awkwardness by the responsible dude in shining armor coming to the rescue, forgiving her immature idiosyncratic nature by seeing past it to her moral core.

Please. It’s 2018. We’re done with such sexist, reductive visions of casual, everyday, recreational drug users.

Instead, cool, calm, and collected, Woodley engages in adult banter. Her general demeanor exudes the sort of state that some smokers enjoy, where weed centers their wandering mind, narrowing one’s attention to live more in the present. Instead of turning her into the butt of the joke, weed puts her in the best headspace to strike up a new friendship that will soon become even more.

The role her joint plays is similar to when a character takes a drink to relax almost as an afterthought. These intoxicated effects are nary even mentioned, because why should they be? It’s not a big deal. Even though this Weed in Art series implicitly makes a big deal of such scenes by explicitly analyzing them, my hope is that one day I won’t need to, that these depictions will become as realistically second-natured as Adrift‘s.

All of these cues are only subtly communicated, and the movie suffers when it doesn’t exhibit such restraint.

More on that tomorrow!

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