Drugstore Cowboy remains one of the most striking portraits of a druggie lifestyle in American film. Matt Dillon heads a crew of pillheads who work out increasingly inventive ways to knock over drug stores in search of prescription mood alterers.
He gives one of his best performances as Bob, with striking support from Kelly Lynch as his semi-significant other and a young Heather Graham and indie icon James LeGros as members of his crew. It's a supremely aimless road movie, conveying a feeling of time as an emptiness to be filled by drugs, showing how addiction becomes the only thing in an addict's life. And the script gives Lynch one of the movies' greatest romantic laments: "You won't fuck me, and I always have to drive."
Cowboy is part of a three-night mini-series of Van Sant's early films, including a rare screening of his first film, Mala Noche (Saturday, February 15, 8:30 pm) and My Own Private Idaho (Wednesday, February 19, 8:15 pm), in which River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves star as hustlers in search of true love and drugs. (Peculiarly, it's modelled on Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part I.) The programs are filled out by Van Sant's seldom-seen shorts. Shame they couldn't get the director's cut of Even Cowgirls Get The Blues. Well, not really. Drugstore Cowboy plays Tuesday (February 18), 8:45 pm.