Sweet Nothing Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1997

My name is Angelo Gazetta. I'm twenty-nine years old. I've been married for ten years. I have a son and a daughter. I don't want to lose them. Please forgive me for what I've done.
Sweet Nothing Poster

When we first meet Angelo Gazetta (Michael Imperioli), he is lying bleeding on a sidewalk, surrounded by his attackers. As a crane shot slowly approaches his still body, we see that his eyes are open and that he is still breathing. This is the sobering start of "Sweet Nothing", a lyrical and stirring tale of the destructive power of drug addiction.

The story then jumps back a few years to happier times-- the birth of his second child. Angelo has it all-- Monika, his beautiful wife (Mira Sorvino), a nice apartment, a white-collar position in an office building, and a son. After he leaves the hospital, his best friend Raymond (Paul Calderon), a tow truck driver, celebrates with him and introduces him to crack cocaine. Raymond then invites Angelo to go into business with him to sell it, to help make ends meet, and then some.

Today I remember that when I was a kid, I was pretty wild about cherry snokones. An old man in a white coat used to sell them from his bicycle. I'll never forget the first time I tasted it. Nothing before or ever since has ever tasted so cold and so sweet. I would drink it always wanting it to taste like that very first time, but it never did. I know a lot of people cling to their old habits... they still eat the same kind of ice cream or smoke the same brand of cigarettes or they keep falling in love. They can't stop chasing that 'first time high'.

At first, all seems well. The money that comes in is welcome-- it allows the Gazettas to make some big ticket purchases to improve their standard of living, and allows Angelo to shower Monika with gifts, including a pearl necklace. They both buy into the dream that this arrangement is only temporary, just until they have enough money saved up-- three months at the most.

People are always saying 'don't do this' or 'don't do that'... 'you're making a big mistake', 'you're going to ruin your life.' I feel sorry for people like that because it means they're too scared to ever try something new or take a chance. Those who risk nothing get nothing. I know what I'm doing. I can just easily stop as I started, and this is the right thing for my family right now. I'm tired of Monika having to watch every penny like it's a diamond or a jewel. Life is to live and there's nothing wrong with taking shortcuts as long as no one gets hurt.

Unfortunately, three months drags out into three years. Angelo becomes increasingly addicted to the drug, spending his days either 'getting high or waiting to get high'. The pathological relationship to crack has led to quit his day job and to deal drugs full-time with Raymond, baking up crack right on his kitchen stove. Angelo begins to neglect Monika and his children, chasing after the always elusive bigger deal that will solve all their problems. However, in justifying his choices as 'the best for his family', he is really denying the real reason for them-- he needs to support his addiction.

The last half of the film then concentrates on the attempts of Angelo to break free from the tangled web that he has woven, only to escalate the level of his entrapment. To pay off money owing to Raymond, he must use a pearl necklace that he gave Monika for Christmas as collateral to get a downpayment on some samples of crack in order to arrange a buy... and so on. Meanwhile, Monika, who has stood by her husband over the years and having watched him deteriorate into a junkie, makes the very difficult decision to walk out on the man she loves, out of fear for her own and her children's' safety. Without his family and the threat of death hanging over his head, Angelo finally makes a stand against the choices that he has made and tries to crawl out of the grave that he has dug himself... but unfortunately, it is a very difficult thing to do.

The vignettes in Angelo's life are bridged by reflective narration, as Angelo reads from a personal journal of his thoughts. This narrative device has its origins in a series of diaries found in an abandoned Bronx apartment, which inspired Lee Drysdale to write the screenplay. Though Angelo's fate is left open-ended at the final moments of the film, the voice of maturity and reason in the narration suggests that Angelo has come to terms with his addiction and is sincerely reformed, leaving the audience with a glimmer of hope regarding his outcome.

"Sweet Nothing" is also characterized by two stand-out performances. Michael Imperioli is more often seen as a character actor (such as a two-bit gangster in "Last Man Standing"), and in this lead role, he convincingly brings across the Everyman who is driven by an obsession that can never be satisfied. Mira Sorvino's role in this film occurred before her Oscar-winning performance in "Mighty Aphrodite", and certainly is a showcase for her dramatic flair, quite a stark contrast to her lighter roles since in MA, "Beautiful Girls", and the atrocious "Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion".

Unlike "Trainspotting" or "Trees Lounge", here is a film about drug addiction that allows you to sympathize for the main characters. This type of story may have been told before, but "Sweet Nothing" has a certain air of earnestness about it. And perhaps the best aspect of this film is the universality of the message-- Angelo's situation is no different that anyone who has ever taken on a part-time job or gotten into a well-paying but dangerous line of work, on the assumption that it would only be temporary until things are better-- only to find that, for some reason, things never seem to get better. There are always bills to be paid, or money that has to be saved... and consequences.

People don't realize how romantic drugs are. They will make you sacrifice everything you love for something that can never love you in return. You will always love her... you can't stop. You become a slave with no senses or reason for anyone but for her.... knowing in the end that she will break your heart and leave you for dead.

Images courtesy of Warner Brothers. All rights reserved.

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