Review: ‘Raising Buchanan,’ starring Amanda Melby, René Auberjonois, Cathy Shim, Terence Bernie Hines and M. Emmet Walsh

June 8, 2020

by Carla Hay

René Auberjonois and Amanda Melby in “Raising Buchanan” (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

“Raising Buchanan”

Directed by Bruce Dellis

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed suburb of Phoenix, the comedy “Raising Buchanan” has a racially diverse (white, African American and Asian) cast of characters representing the middle-class and the wealthy.

Culture Clash: A financially desperate woman steals the corpse of U.S. president James Buchanan and hopes to sell it to wherever she can get the most money for it.

Culture Audience: “Raising Buchanan” will appeal primarily to people who like quirky comedies and movies that make references to Civil War-era American history.

Cathy Shim, Jennifer Pfalzgraff and Amanda Melby in “Raising Buchanan” (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

Although the comedy film “Raising Buchanan” is about using a corpse as a commodity, the movie isn’t at all a “Weekend at Bernie’s” (another comedy film about a dead body) type of slapstick film. Instead of relying on physical gags, the quirky humor of “Raising Buchanan” is more of a commentary on shameful moments in American history (such as legal slavery) and how many of America’s sociopolitical issues from the slavery days still exist today. “Raising Buchanan” (the feature-film debut from writer/director Bruce Dellis) has some interesting and unique elements, but the movie starts to lose steam in the last third of the story, when the social commentary loses some of its bite.

Throughout the movie, it’s repeatedly mentioned that Buchanan (who was president from 1857 to 1861) is considered the worst U.S. president of all time. He advocated for states to keep slavery legal (such as Buchanan’s endorsement of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Dred Scott v. Sanford case), and he made other presidential decisions that are now considered on the wrong side of history. Before he was elected the 15th president of the United States, Buchanan said he would serve only one term. He was succeeded by Abraham Lincoln.

A running gag in “Raising Buchanan” is that whenever someone in the movie mentions Buchanan’s “worst U.S. president ever” reputation, one of the characters gives a side nod and says, “Well…,” as if to imply that a more recent president could take that title. In the production notes for “Raising Buchanan,” Dellis said he came up with the idea for the film before Donald Trump was elected president. However, the movie was filmed while Trump was president, so it’s clear that people can interpret the sarcasm however they want to interpret it.

“Raising Buchanan” starts off by showing protagonist Ruth Kiesling (played by Amanda Melby) in a weird situation: She’s handcuffed to a table leg in the kitchen of the donut shop where she works. And the “ghost” of James Buchanan (played by René Auberjonois) is telling her a story about seeing a magician’s stage show in Paris in 1855, where the show ended with the magician’s assistant being sawed in half and then never seen again. Buchanan says that it was widely believed that the assistant had really been murdered on stage without the audience knowing it at the time.

Buchanan tells Ruth, “When one encounters a magician, one expects and invites trickery. But the simplest way to saw a woman in half is to saw a woman is half.” What’s going on here? A great deal of “Raising Buchanan” is then a flashback that leads up to the moment where Ruth finds herself handcuffed in the donut shop’s kitchen and talking to the ghost of Buchanan.

Ruth works behind the counter at Gunderson Donuts, a small shop that is located in an unnamed city in the Phoenix area. She’s a 40-year-old underachiever who has a habit of lying and stealing. For example, when a customer returns to the shop to ask her if anyone saw the wallet he lost there, she says she’ll go in a back room and check.

Viewers see that Ruth is the one who took the wallet. Before going back to the front of the store to return the wallet to the customer, she steals all the cash that’s in the wallet. The customer notices the missing cash but says nothing, because everything else is still in the wallet.

Ruth’s dishonesty isn’t just habitual. It’s pathological and extreme. In another scene, she visits her ailing, widowed father Larry Kiesling (played by M. Emmet Walsh) in a hospice, where he’s been staying for almost a year. Ruth has told her bed-ridden father elaborate lies about her life: She says that she’s married to a financially successful businessman, she’s about be promoted in her important corporate job, and she has a baby son whom she’s brought with her to the hospice.

But those are all lies. In reality, Ruth is very single and “squatting” at Larry’s house with two roommates who are around her age: Meg (played by Cathy Shim), who works with Ruth at the donut shop, and Holly (played by Jennifer Pfalzgraff), who works as a janitor and part-time ventriloquist. And that baby isn’t Ruth’s either. She borrowed the baby from a single friend named Brock (played by Kane Black), who only gets to see his son during visitation arrangements.

And that’s not all the deception that Ruth is hiding from her father. She’s fallen 10 months behind on the mortgage payments to the house, because she used that money as payments for a settlement resulting from an auto theft that she committed. Although Ruth was arrested for the crime, she agreed to a deal where she would get probation and pay restitution. Ruth has another part-time job playing the cello for a smarmy ventriloquist named Errol (played by Steve Brisco), who puts his stage performances on YouTube to make extra money.

In a meeting with her probation officer Philip Crosby (played by Terence Bernie Hines), viewers find out that Ruth also has an anger-management problem, when she admits that she got involved in a road rage incident. Philip is exasperated when he tells Ruth that her job as a cello player in a ventriloquist act does not count as “community service.” He tells her to find work that actually qualifies as community service, so that she won’t be found guilty of violating the conditions of her probation.

But there’s a bigger problem that Ruth has to face: Her father Larry had been originally been given a month to live, but he obviously outlived that diagnosis. And now, he’s been told that he could be released from the hospice in as early as two weeks. She’s terrified that he’ll find out about all of her lies.

Ruth has avoided foreclosure on the house by telling the mortgage company that Larry is unable to to pay because he’s in a hospice. But if Larry is discharged from the hospice and comes home, she can no longer use that excuse to not pay the mortgage. And there’s also a possibility that her lies will lead to her roommates Meg and Holly having no place to live, and it will all be Ruth’s fault.

Around the time that it looks like Ruth’s web of lies will start to unravel and be exposed, her roommate Holly comes home and asks Ruth and Meg if they want to see a dead president of the United States. Holly takes them to the place where she works as a janitor and shows them a coffin containing the body of James Buchanan. (Although the movie has a lot of adult language, “Raising Buchanan” avoids the vulgarity of showing a corpse. Viewers just have to imagine what it looks like.)

Meg takes a photo of the dead president and comments, “He looks peaceful.” Ruth says, “He looks like a fucking ghoul.” Meg observes, “It’s hard to imagine Abraham Lincoln taking orders from this guy.” Holly replies, “Well, early on in his career, Jimi Hendrix opened for the Monkees.” This is the kind of dialogue that’s in the movie.

Much of the humor in “Raising Buchanan” derives from Ruth and Meg being less-than-smart in almost everything they do. (Think of them as an indie-film female version of “Dumb and Dumber.”) Ruth comes up with a poorly thought-out plan to steal Buchanan’s body to get what she thinks will be easy cash (she’s hoping for at at least $100,000) to solve her money problems.

Meg essentially follows Ruth’s orders, which includes disguising themselves in ridiculous wigs and exaggerated eyebrows when they go to a public library to email the “ransom note.” And when Ruth has to take time off from work because her Buchanan schemes are taking more time than she expected, she tells Meg to give any illness excuse to their boss, as long as the word “vagina” is in the excuse, so it can be used as grounds for a sexism lawsuit if he says no.

A lot of the movie’s storyline is about how different places and individuals reject Ruth’s attempts to extort money or to sell the Buchanan corpse to them, because Buchanan just isn’t considered important enough or respected enough for people to care. The U.S. government mistakenly thinks Ruth is asking for grant money, and she obviously doesn’t want to fill out any forms that would reveal her identity. Ruth then botches an attempt to sell the corpse to a rich widow named Laura Warren (played by Laura Durant) who collects rare historical objects.

Ruth’s sales pitch to Buchanan’s former hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is also met with comical results. An office guy (played by Robert Ben Garant) in the city government answers the phone and tells Ruth when she tries to sell Buchanan’s body to the city: “He’s not really a national treasure. He’s more of a town character. Good luck selling your corpse, man.” Ruth responds, “I’m working my way down a list. Hopefully, someone will care.”

While she works her way down her list, the “ghost” of James Buchanan often appears to Ruth (usually when she’s alone) and talks to her. This dialogue often leads to a sarcastic back-and-forth between Ruth and Buchanan on his legacy and why he made certain decisions while he was president of the United States.

The humor in “Raising Buchanan” is hit or miss. The movie works best in the first two-thirds, when Ruth gets rejection after rejection in trying to get money for the corpse. The humor is definitely “deadpan,” as opposed to “madcap,” since the comedy relies on Ruth and her cohorts being too simple-minded to come up with coherent plans, and yet they think they’re being criminal masterminds.

Melby and Shim make a pretty good comedy team, and the filmmakers should be commended for not doing predictable casting of people in their 20s in the lead roles. Ruth, Meg and Holly are in their 40s, but don’t have a maturity level that most of their peers do, which makes their shenanigans more pathetic, in a  comical way.

And the movie makes a point of showing that a smooth-talking “villain” such as Buchanan can come up with ways to explain some of his very heinous decisions. Auberjonois’ portrayal of Buchanan as a pompous blowhard who thinks he’s doing everything right is one of the main reasons to see this movie, because it’s a spot-on satire of how the real Buchanan might justify his decisions if he were alive today. (“Raising Buchanan” was one of the last film roles for Auberjonois, who died in 2019, at the age of 79.)

That being said, “Raising Buchannan” has some badly written jokes, such as how the movie handles the never-married Buchanan’s sexuality and how he is now widely perceived as a closeted homosexual. There’s been speculation that Buchanan’s longtime housemate William Rufus King was his secret lover, and there have been some historical accounts that many of Buchanan’s political peers thought the same thing. Some historians have also speculated that Buchanan could have been asexual, which is a theory that “Raising Buchanan” ignores.

Whatever Buchanan’s sexuality really was, it seems to have nothing to do with him being an incompetent leader of the United States. But “Raising Buchanan” makes a few questionable jokes to imply that Buchanan’s sexuality and his leadership skills were connected. For example, when Ruth first sees the corpse of Buchanan, she says that Buchanan being “queer” was one of the reasons why he was considered the “worst” president of the United States.

Later, when she taunts the ghost of Buchanan over him possibly being a closeted gay man, he responds by asking her if it would be fair for people to assume that Ruth and Meg are lovers just because they’re not married and live in the same household. Ruth sees his point and backs off of her slightly homophobic baiting of Buchanan.

Buchanan’s sexuality is brought up several times in the film because there’s a scene in the movie where Ruth and Holly (who eventually finds out that Ruth stole the Buchanan corpse) go to a local college’s LGBT center to try to sell the corpse. But, of course, Ruth and her cohorts are too dimwitted to know that not only would this LGBT center not have the money they want, but Buchanan’s white supremacist beliefs about slavery are also contradictory to any civil-rights beliefs that would include the LGBTQ community.

“Raising Buchanan” starts to lose its satirical edge in the last third of the movie, during a stretch of the story with ventriloquist Errol and his involvement in Ruth’s quest to get money for Buchanan’s corpse. The film also makes the mistake of trying to show parallels between Ruth’s messed-up, deceptive life and Buchanan’s despised legacy in American history, as if these two people weirdly have things in common and can therefore relate to each other.

It’s a misguided comparison that leads to clunky scenes that are meant to portray Buchanan as “sympathetic” and “misunderstood.” One of the reasons why filmmaker Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” (a satire about a boy in Nazi Germany who has Adolf Hitler as an imaginary best friend) was such a well-received, award-winning movie is because “Jojo Rabbit” never lost sight of why Hitler was such a toxic leader. Unfortunately, “Raising Buchanan” gets a little too unfocused toward the end of the film by trading in satire for sentimentality, which lessens the intended impact of the story.

Gravitas Ventures released “Raising Buchanan” on digital and VOD on May 5, 2020.

Review: ‘Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics’ starring Sting, Ben Stiller, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Bourdain, Deepak Chopra, A$AP Rocky and Sarah Silverman

May 18, 2020

by Carla Hay

Rob Corddry in “Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics” (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

“Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics”

Directed by Donick Cary

Culture Representation: This documentary interviews a predominantly white male group of entertainers who talk about their experiences taking psychedelic drugs, and the movie features a diverse group of actors doing comedy skits about psychedelic drug experiences.

Culture Clash: Despite these drugs being illegal, almost all of the people interviewed say that they don’t regret taking psychedelic drugs.

Culture Audience: “Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics” will appeal to people who just want one-sided comedic stories about taking psychedelic drugs, because the movie’s agenda is to exclude any stories about the drugs’ long-term negative effects on health.

Nick Offerman in “Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics” (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

In its overexuberance to portray psychedelic drug taking as something that’s harmless or something to laugh about later, the documentary “Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics” sinks to new lows of exploitation by prominently featuring two celebrities whose tragic, self-destructive deaths are definitely not funny. The documentary’s filmmakers (including director Donick Cary) made the morbid and tacky decision to display the filmmakers’ interviews with Carrie Fisher and Anthony Bourdain in this parade of celebrities who mostly glamorize taking psychedelic drugs.

Fisher died in 2016 of drug-related causes. Bourdain committed suicide in 2018. They both struggled with mental-health issues and drug addiction and admitted to taking a lot of LSD and other psychedelics in their lifetimes. Needless to say, Fisher and Bourdain are definitely not examples of how psychedelic drugs can help people with mental-health problems and drug addictions. And yet, the documentary pushes the scientifically unproven agenda that psychedelic drugs are beneficial to people suffering from drug addiction and mental-health issues.

But hey, why let these tragic deaths get in the way of making a documentary where these now-dead people are shown joking about their acid trips, as if those drug experiences couldn’t possibly be harmful to them? They’re certainly not going to talk about the negative side effects of “bad trips,” such as suicidal thoughts, depression or psychosis. After all, this movie wants people to believe that psychedelics are “shiny, happy drugs,” without giving a thoroughly honest look at the down sides too, because the film is so focused on having people endorse these drugs.

And there’s a reason why the filmmakers only included entertainers in this documentary that glamorizes psychedelic drugs. Imagine a documentary that featured a bunch of health-care workers, emergency responders, schoolteachers or airplane pilots joking about their experiences doing psychedelic drugs, and many of the interviewees giving the impression that they still do psychedelics on a regular basis. It wouldn’t seem so “harmless” then, would it?

Therefore, it’s no surprise that the documentary focuses on people (some more famous than others) who are in showbiz, where illegal drug abuse is flaunted and often celebrated. The average person in a regular job would not be able to get away with bragging in a Netflix documentary about their drug experiences.

Nor does the average person have the kind of money that rock star Sting has, to fly to Mexico whenever he wants, just to take peyote in an elaborate shaman ritual, which he describes in vivid detail in the documentary. Almost all of the people in this film can easily afford to indulge in taking illegal drugs and do not have to worry about how they’re going to pay for any medical treatment or legal issues if things go wrong. It’s one of the reasons why the documentary glamorizes these drug experiences, because there are some negative consequences to illegal drug taking that the “average” person can’t casually dismiss as easily as a well-paid entertainer can.

In addition to Sting, there are several other entertainers in the documentary who talk about their psychedelic drug trips or say that they’ve used psychedelic drugs: Ben Stiller (who’s one of the documentary’s producers), Nick Kroll, Deepak Chopra, Will Forte, A$AP Rocky, Nick Offerman, Shepard Fairey, Lewis Black, Paul Scheer, Rob Corddry, Andy Richter, Judd Nelson, Sarah Silverman, Jim James, Diedrich Bader, Rob Huebel, Reggie Watts, Natasha Lyonne, Adam Horovitz, Mark Maron, Rosie Perez, Donovan, Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann, Brett Gelman, Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon and David Cross.

One of the problems of doing a documentary like this is that you never really know how much people could be exaggerating or lying about these drug experiences. Many of the people interviewed are comedians and actors—two professions that are notorious for people fabricating things about their lives in order to get attention. Therefore, this documentary should not be considered very “realistic” by any stretch of the drug-addled imagination.

The psychedelic stories are re-enacted in one of two ways: through animation or by having live actors do a scripted skit. The animated segments (from Sugarshack Animation) are among the best aspects of the documentary. The scripted skits are hit-and-miss.

One of those misfires is miscasting Adam Devine as Bourdain in a re-enactment of Bourdain’s description of a drug-fueled, Hunter S. Thompson-inspired road trip that he took when he was a young man in the 1970s. Devine is known for having a sweet and goofy persona, while Bourdain was the complete opposite, which makes the re-enactment wrong from the get-go.

Even worse, the story that Bourdain tells isn’t even that funny. The road trip included Bourdain and a male friend picking up two women and partying heavily with them in a hotel room, including ingesting several drugs, such as LSD, alcohol, marijuana and cocaine. One of the women overdosed, and the others thought she was dead. So they just left her unconscious on the floor while they tried to figure out what to do, according to Bourdain.

Bourdain, while high on LSD, says that he imagined that there would be police coming to arrest them, with helicopters, searchlights, and a S.W.A.T.-like team surrounding the room. And then the woman suddenly regained consciousness and started to dance as if nothing had happened. Someone could’ve died from ingesting drugs while you were partying with that person, you had a LSD-induced panic attack about being arrested, and that’s supposed to be funny?

A better re-enactment that accomplishes its intended humor is Natasha Leggero dressed in a “Star Wars” Princess Leia outfit, for Fisher’s tale of being high on LSD while in New York City’s Central Park. During that psychedelic experience, Fisher says she spent a great deal of time being upset at seeing an acorn “misbehave” on the grass. During another acid trip on a beach, Fisher vaguely remembers she might have been topless when a bus full of Japanese tourists stopped right in front of her and they recognized her.

And in a somewhat clever casting switcheroo, Corddry plays Scheer in the segment that re-enacts Scheer’s psychedelic story, while Scheer plays Corddy in Corddry’s re-enactment. Meanwhile, Kroll portrays himself in his re-enactment about how he and a group of male friends were high on LSD at a Malibu beach, and the friends covered him in kelp as a prank. He then imagined himself to be a kelp monster and chased them around the beach. (Things weren’t so funny the next morning when he woke up covered in bites from whatever small animals were in the kelp.)

Most of the psychedelic trips described in the documentary are about hallucinations, experiencing colors in a different way, or losing a sense of time or memory. And there are the typical stories of “revelations,” along the lines of “I saw inside my soul,” “I saw how connected the world is” and “I found out the meaning of life is to love everybody.” Some of the people interviewed also give advice by saying it’s better to take psychedelics with trusted friends and to avoid looking in mirrors while under the influence of psychedelics.

A$AP Rocky (one of the few people of color who’s interviewed in the film) tells one of the documentary’s funniest stories, about how he took LSD with a beautiful female companion. During the course of the time they had together, they started having sex. And he swears that he saw a rainbow shoot from his penis during this encounter. “I don’t even like rainbows,” he quips. (Needless to say, the re-enactment for this story is definitely in animation form.)

But for every entertaining story like that one, the documentary has a story that’s basic or boring. The Grateful Dead was considered the ultimate psychedelic rock band, so you’d think one of the Dead’s drummers would have some hilarious stories to tell. Wrong.

Kreutzmann’s anecdotes aren’t that interesting or revealing, unless you consider it’s fascinating that he tells a story of coming home to his parents’ house after staying out all night while he was on LSD, and hallucinating that his breakfast meal of eggs were moving on the plate. He also mentions that he once couldn’t finish performing at a Grateful Dead concert because he was hallucinating that his drums were melting. Yawn.

Being stoned on psychedelics at a Grateful Dead show is also predictably mentioned by some of the interviewees, such as Corddry and Maron. (The late Fred Willard has a cameo as a Deadhead hippie in the re-enactment of Maron’s psychedelic story.) Garant comedically describes how you can tell the difference between someone having a “good trip” and a “bad trip” at a Dead concert, because someone having a “good trip” will lean forward while walking, while someone having a “bad trip” will lean backward while walking, as if they’re afraid of where their head will go.

Sting, who says he’s had good and bad psychedelic trips, mentions that facing his own mortality was one of the most frightening things he ever experienced while under the influence of psychedelics. He also describes the first time he took peyote. It was at a farm in England, where he was unexpectedly asked to help a cow give birth while he was tripping out on the drug. He was told that the cow would die if he didn’t help, and when the calf was born, Sting says he finally understood the miracle of life.

“I think it’s a valuable experience,” says Sting of taking psychedelic drugs. “Whenever I’ve had a bad trip—and I’ve had many—I’ve realized it was what I needed. Sometimes, you need to have your ego taken down a notch or two. On the other hand, you can have immensely rewarding experiences. My feeling is that it balances out.”

Stiller is one of the few celebrities in the documentary who talks about disliking what he says was his one and only experience with LSD (when he was a young man in the ’80s), because it was a bad trip. He says that he was hoping that it would be an enlightening experience, but instead he spent the approximately six-hour acid trip feeling “fear and anxiety.”

“Immediately, I started to freak out and get really scared,” Stiller remembers. “I started staring at my hand, doing the cliché thing of of pondering what my hand was.” His paranoia during the acid trip was made worse, he says, when he and the friend he was with at the time began walking around New York City and saw the parade floats that were going to be in the upcoming Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Stiller says that he hallucinated that the floats were chasing him, like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in the “Ghostbusters” movie.

Perez and Silverman each say that the first time they took LSD, it was by accident. Silverman said that it happened when she and some comedian friends were hanging out at a diner in New York City, when a hippie stranger walked in and handed her a tab of LSD that she took without even asking what it was. Her story isn’t as coherent as some of the others, since she recalls laughing and crying with a group of people in public and then ending up in someone’s car with the driver (who was also on LSD) forgetting how to drive.

Perez said she got “dosed” when she was out with her sister on New Year’s Eve in their hometown of New York City, sometime in the late ’80s. They went to a nightclub, where she was offered some fruit punch as a drink. Little did she know that the punch was spiked with LSD. Perez says that she  hallucinated that the dance floor had turned into waves, and she ended up rolling around with her breasts exposed.

Her trip intensified when she got home and imagined that her body had merged into her bed. Perez says she didn’t do drugs or drink alcohol at this time in her life, so when she was told that she was having an acid trip, her first thought was that she was going to hell. She says that the experience led her to seek therapy, which helped her get over her “Catholic guilt,” so she thinks getting rid of her religious hang-ups was one good thing that came out of the experience.

Speaking of guilt trips, the movie pokes fun at the ridiculous, over-the-top and usually badly acted public-service announcements (PSAs) aimed at preventing people, especially young people, from taking psychedelics. Offerman pops up occasionally throughout the film in a parody of a science professor who talks about the effects of psychedelics. NBCUniversal’s “The More You Know” PSA campaign is mocked with “The More You Trip,” whenever one of the interviewees gives advice on what to do or what not to do when taking psychedelics. (For example: “Don’t drive while on acid.”)

The “ABC Afterschool Special” is given the satire treatment with the documentary’s “LSD Afterschool Special,” a multi-part segment that has actor/comedian Adam Scott as the host of a 1980s-styled PSA film with a plot of nerdy high schoolers (played by Haley Joel Osment and Maya Erskine) going to a house party and being tempted into the “evils” of taking LSD. It’s a funny idea but it’s executed poorly.

On a more serious note, “Have a Good Trip” also attempts to promote the theory that using psychedelics is the best way to treat depression and other mental-health issues. Dr. Charles Grob, a psychiatry professor at the University of California at Los Angeles, is interviewed about his research in this area. Not surprisingly, he’s a proponent of using psychedelics to treat these issues (how else would he be able to continue to get research money), but the documentary fails to present other scientific points of view.

The only other non-entertainer interviewed in the film is Zach Leary, son of famed LSD guru Timothy Leary. And what he has to say is very predictable and reveals nothing new at all: “DMT is like the express ticket to primordial ooze. If you want to see what it is to be an organic being and absolutely watch your ego dissipate into nothingness, smoke some DMT, and you’ll get there right away.”

Although some people in the documentary, including Dr. Grob, caution that taking psychedelics isn’t for everyone and can have damaging effects for some people, any of those “bad effects” stories are shut out of the film. It’s like doing a documentary about bungee jumping and refusing to talk about the people who got seriously injured or killed from this risky stunt.

Celebrity spiritual guru Chopra, who says he experimented with psychedelics in the past, is one of the few people in the film who admits “you run the risk of psychosis” from doing psychedelics. Of course, the film only presents stories from people who say that they have “happy endings” from taking psychedelics. And two of those people are now dead because of self-destructive reasons, so viewers can judge for themselves how “beneficial” psychedelics really are in helping people with serious health issues such as depression and addiction.

One of the more irresponsible things about the documentary is that it leaves out any talk of acid flashbacks. Naïve people who see this film as a guide to taking psychedelic drugs might think that once an acid trip is “over,” the drug has left the body, the way that alcohol can leave the human body through urine after a 24-to-48-hour period if no more alcohol is consumed. But the scientific reality is that, depending on the dosage, psychedelic drugs can stay in the body for a variable period of time, and that can lead to unpredictable and random “flashback” trips.

How people feel about “Have a Good Trip” will depend largely on how much they worship celebrities and take their words as gospel. The psychedelic anecdotes in the film should be taken for what they are—stories from people who are in the business of creating fake personas and making things look more glamorous than they really are.

The people who were chosen to be interviewed for this documentary also have the privilege of being less likely to be arrested for illegal drugs. (With few exceptions, most of the people in this film have a certain level of fame.) And they are less likely to have their careers ruined by a lot of psychedelic drug use, compared to people who don’t live in such a privileged bubble. It’s something to think about whenever you hear a celebrity in a certain income bracket openly brag about using illegal drugs.

Netflix premiered “Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics” on May 11, 2020.

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