NYU film professor Michel Negroponte goes slumming in the Lower East Side, picking out a half-dozen recovering heroin addicts from a methadone clinic and chronicling their sad state of methadonia, in which patients are trapped in a zonked-out limbo somewhere between “straight land” and absolute oblivion. Well-meaning but miscalculated, Methadonia emerges as an aloof account of addiction. Only the most humiliating (and funniest) moments in the lives of these people seem to have made it onto the screen, but in spite of the barometer being set so exploitatively high, the documentary rarely gets its hands dirty. That’s because the director’s impersonal, frequently condescending approach to his subject matter includes affecting the struggles of his subjects with narration rife with florid metaphors about addiction, a preposterously intrusive jazz score evocative of Taxi Cab Confessions (HBO commissioned the project), and specious sound effects, graphical pretenses, and informational bits about the effects of methadone on the brain. The film exploits the average person’s distance from the methadone clinic, but for anyone with first-hand experience of addiction, you’ll wish Millie, the tough-as-nails counselor with 28 years of drug use under her belt, had taken the camera from Negroponte and shot the thing herself.
Like the film, image and sound is unattractive: Audio is clear but video is frequently muggy, with evidence of combing and edge enhancement visible in spots. If the star rating isn't lower it's because the film looks no better or worse than it did projected on the big screen at the New York Film Festival last year.
Two talking-heads shorts titled Addiction and Methadone 101 and Follow Ups allow Michel Negroponte to talk down to audiences who've never stuck needles into their arms and catch up with the film's subjects, respectively. Also included here: director's notes, a director biography, links and resources, and trailers for The Devil's Miner, Bright Leaves, Aristide and the Endless Revolution, and The Goebbels Experiment.
Jennifer Dworkin's Love and Diane grapples with the feeling that Methadonia is afraid of.