Viking Night: SLC Punk
By Bruce Hall
October 11, 2011
It sucks when you find out everything you’ve devoted your life to is actually just a depressing, self indulgent waste of time.
Maybe that’s never happened to you but as we go through life, change is inevitable. You learn new things whether you want to or not, and sooner or later you know enough to want to do some things differently. If you’re inherently mature, you know when it’s time to suck it up and change. If you’re not, then you defiantly blame the rest of the world for your problems. You could end up wandering through life, swimming against the current instead of learning how to chart a course. Some guys lose a lot of years that way. Some guys lose them all. SLC Punk is a story that contains one of each. It’s the brainchild and semi-autobiographical handiwork of director James Merendino, who came of age a disaffected punk rocker in Salt Lake City during the waning years of the Cold War.
Now you know where the name comes from.
As for the plot, it comes largely from Merendino’s own post high school years. And these were evidently spent fondling the fringe of the anti-establishment drug culture - or, what there was of it in Salt Lake City. I’ve never been there, but I lived in the Bible Belt long enough for a few things to look familiar.
SLC Punk depicts the town as a highly conservative place that features some archaic ideas about drinking, as well as a somewhat selective enforcement of its moral code. I’m not saying it’s true. I’m just telling you what’s in the movie. It’s the standard talk you’d hear all the time if you lived within a thousand mile radius of the place. Anyway, you’re bound to have more than the average level of teenage insurrection in an environment like this - so allow me to introduce to you, People’s Exhibits A and B, Steveo and Heroin Bob.
Steveo (Matthew Lillard, who has very prominent crow’s feet for a teenager) is a an exceptionally bright high school graduate whose antisocial tendencies put him at odds with his parents’ Ivy League dreams. His best friend Heroin Bob is a melancholy drunk whose nickname comes from the ironic fact that he faints at the sight of needles. They’ve known each other since elementary school, and now they seem content to live out their young adult years together in a crumbling tenement overlooking a construction site. They spend most of their time drinking, working just hard enough not to get fired and living on the drug culture’s event horizon. Again, this sounds familiar. My reaction to boundaries was to infiltrate a social underclass that didn’t need boundaries, because they already knew everything. In my case it was the Goth scene. In Steveo’s case, it was Goth’s mean older brother, Punk.