More believable than “Chasing the Dragon,” Lifetime’s ridiculous housewife turned heroin-user pic, but nowhere near as honest or as riveting as “Trainspotting,” “Trapped in a Purple Haze” is an inflated piece of melodrama disguised as a cautionary tale for rich suburban white kids. “Trapped,” at times, is less about the hazards of using smack and more about how much parents can screw up your life. Like “American Beauty,” “Trapped” explores the suburban wasteland that is created out of a parent’s incessant drive for perfection, only without the savvy or great acting.
Max Hanson (Jonathan Jackson) lives in the gilded cage of his well-to-do Chicago family home. Mom Sophie (JoBeth Williams) is a frustrated artist who desperately wants Max to pick up where she left off. He just wants to play college hockey and hang out with his friends at the video store where he works.
When he meets a mysterious and carefree beauty named Molly (Carly Pope), he becomes enthralled with her despite some startlingly rude and questionable behavior. Molly, as it turns out, represents Max’s anti-mom, a pure hedonist. But what Max never sees, despite a dramatic neon sign glowing above her head, is that Molly turns to drugs to numb the pain of her own stilted suburban childhood.
Of course, Molly eventually lures Max to the dark side, but not before he repeatedly goes to his parents, specifically mom, for help and advice. Mimi Schmir’s script, which contains more than one allusion to “Ordinary People,” dulls its own anti-drug message with this heavy-handed story about parental neglect.
Pope, looking waif-thin, does a decent job of capturing the allure and excitement of heroin chic, which director Eric Laneuville accentuates with artful shots and slo-mo sequences. His able direction reinforces the scary notion of how closely drugs are tied to today’s youth culture.
As Max, Jackson does heart-wrenchingly well, proving that his daytime Emmy Awards for his role as Lucky on the daytime soap “General Hospital” were no fluke. Williams, a consummate actress, is reduced to pursing her lips and being as wicked as possible without donning a black hat and broom. Although Schmir tries to give us insight into Sophie with a side story about her work, Williams’ performance is static, save for the last few moments of the film.
Technical credits are polished, with fine lensing by Nikos Evdemon and progressive music from Brian Tyler.