Permanent Midnight

Permanent Midnight is a 1998 movie starring Ben Stiller as Jerry Stahl and is based on Stahl’s 1995 autobiography of the same name. Jerry Stahl was an award winning fiction writer who had been living in New York and was convinced by his best friend to move to LA and try the more lucrative field of writing for film and TV. He became successful and was one of the main writers of ALF (changed in the movie to Mr. Chompers), thirtysomething and Moonlighting. Unfortunately at the same time he managed to develop a massive heroin habit which derailed his promising career and complicated his personal life.

The ups and downs of his life are narrated by Stahl to a woman played by Maria Bello, a one-night stand who turns out to also be a survivor of addiction. They spend a couple of days together in a motel room and these scenes serve as the framework for the main story. Stiller as Stahl is brilliant. Always a physical comedy actor, he brings this same physicality to this dramatic role to intense effect. The scenes where Stahl is taking a meeting while high – sweating and fidgeting and babbling at a million miles an hour – are excruciating to watch. Stiller nails the frustration and pent up energy of Stahl and he comes across as a flawed but ultimately likeable eccentric. The supporting cast includes Owen Wilson, Janeane Garofalo, and Elizabeth Hurley who is surprisingly rather good in her role as Stahl’s wife Sandra.

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