Acts of Worship

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Man, the life of a junkie sure does suck. I got that point fairly early in “Acts of Worship,” yet for some reason “Acts of Worship” kept telling me over and over again. It made me dislike “Acts of Worship,” which lacks the dramatic power or strong acting necessary to overcome a story that doesn’t go anywhere.

Written and directed by Rosemary Rodriguez — and based on her own experiences on the streets of New York — the film follows Alix (Ana Reeder), a rock-bottom heroin junkie who lives in a neighborhood populated almost exclusively by others of her persuasion. She makes money for fixes by shoplifting books, which she sells to street vendors who specialize in stolen goods (if you’ve ever been to New York, you’ve seen a hundred of them).

She meets a photographer named Digna (Michael Hyatt), herself a recovering addict, who makes a modest living photographing junkies: She pays them $10 for their permission, and magazines pay her much more than that for the photos. Digna befriends Alix and wants to help her, but the road to recovery is arduous and sometimes unattainable altogether.

Forty-five minutes into the film, I was struck by what an unlikable protagonist Alix is. She’s bitchy and selfish — probably realistic for a junkie, I’ll grant you, but without the underlying humanity that real people have. There’s no sense of who she was before she found drugs, no vestige of her former self. Compare this with the miserable but still human characters in “Requiem for a Dream,” for example. Those people, you root for. Alix elicits no such sympathy.

Though it is not very artful in its approach, “Acts of Worship” does benefit from a certain documentary quality in its cinematography (by Luke Geissbuhler). The film stock is grainy — probably because it was cheaper to buy, but in this case, the tight budget was a blessing, because it makes everything look real. Unfortunately, the banal script and flat acting can’t produce anything nearly as authentic.

C- (1 hr., 34 min.; R, abundant harsh profanity, some sexuality, some violence, lots of drug use.)

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