WEEDS (1987) Nick Nolte stars in this well-intentioned, contrived prison drama.

WeedsTheme Song: Angelo Badalamenti did the orchestral portion of the soundtrack, and for whatever reason he chose to use “Mysteries of Love,” the song he wrote with David Lynch for Blue Velvet in Weeds


It’s an orchestral version, whereas the version on the Blue Velvet soundtrack is synth-based (I think). It also does not have the lyrics.

Melissa Etheridge wrote a few songs for the musical portion of the soundtrack as well but I did not bother to upload them because I am totally lazy. For the record, the Weeds OST only features an orchestral version of one of the Etheridge songs.

Interesting Dated References: Requesting Smirnoff Vodka by name as if it’s a top shelf call-out.

Best Line: Said by man in prison — “Give me another one … thicker.” This statement was in reference to the size of the book he wanted to read.

Social Context: Weeds is a fictional story that loosely lifts a few details from the real life story of Rick Cluchey. Inspired by the works of Samuel Beckett, Cluchey started a theater troupe while incarcerated in San Quentin and continued to perform his works after his release.

Summary: Nick Nolte leads the cast as Lee Umstetter, a self-destructive inmate serving life for armed robbery. After a few unsuccessful suicide attempts, Umstetter decides to instead spend his time reading up on philosophy.

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Suddenly in a span of like two minutes, he’s a philosophy expert and no longer suicidal. Even more sudden, he is inspired by a prison production of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, and decides to write his own play. Directed by John D. Hancock (Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, Bang the Drum Slowly), the pacing is of this film is continuously hustled. Only about five minutes into the film, Umstetter is already reformed and scholarly.

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The prison immediately agrees to let him start a theatre troupe so they can stage his play. The cavalcade of cleverly-named inmates includes William Forsythe (Boardwalk Empire) as Bob, Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters) as Bagdad, Marc Rolston (Aliens) as Dave, and Lane Smith (V) as Claude.

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Everyone then dons black metal make-up and proceeds to put on a sweeping prison musical. I also think they travel around to other prisons with their play, but everything is happening so quickly I lost track. During one of the performances a female newspaper reporter attends and falls in love with Umstetter, either because of his superior acting, or because of his black metal makeup. The next day she writes a glowing review and immediately begins to campaign for Umstetter’s release from prison.

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During another ridiculously fast-paced montage that is supposed to span a year or so, we see the following happen: Umstetter and the reporter lady write letters and fall in love, various members of the theatre troupe get out of prison, reporter lady meets with governor to get Umstetter paroled, and Umstetter gets paroled. That seriously takes place in like two minutes.

Weeds

Once out of prison, Umstetter immediately makes love to the reporter lady. He also has this weird devil tattoo on his belly. After making love he decides to try to get the theatre troupe together, which leads to another comical montage in which Bob is shown shoplifting and Dave is shown exposing himself to children. Seriously, it’s treated as whacky slapstick fun. Then they all agree to go on tour with the play.

Weeds

Attendance is pretty poor, and the few people who do show up have terrible taste, as evidenced by this young man with reverse sideburns and a Journey “Raised on Radio” tour shirt. There’s also a lot of in-fighting, debauchery, and criminal temptations along the way.

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Umstetter eventually admits to plagiarizing parts of the play, so the troupe turns it into more of a musical with crowd interaction, intimidation, and genital exposing. Then one of the troupe members dies in a car accident on a perfectly clear day with ideal road conditions, and they hire Joe Mantegna as a replacement.

Weeds

Do you understand how ridiculous the pacing is in this movie? The acting and directing are fine, but the story, subplots, and tangents are totally out of hand. The writing team really needed to get together with the editing team and hash this out. Instead they decided to shove everything into a two-hour run-time at such a breakneck pace it becomes hard to get emotionally involved with the movie at all.

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And things just keep on going: The play finally gets enough good reviews to premiere off-Broadway, Umstetter goes to visit his mom (Ann Ramsey of The Goonies fame), the play gets bad reviews, the troupe starts performing the play in prisons, with one performance inciting a riot that leads to the actors being mistaken for prisoners, etc., etc.

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Bob (Forsythe) is killed in the riot. Months later, Umstetter goes back to visit a prison that has been overgrown with weeds and does some voiceover about how prisoners are like weeds. Oh right, then there’s one more musical number where everyone comes back (even those who are dead) and they all bow in front of a crowd.

Weeds would not be as forgotten if it had been split up into some type of television four-part miniseries. There’s so much packed into this runtime it’s dizzying.

Poster and Box Art: Nolte wears weird high-fashion theatre clothes as featured on the cover throughout most of the movie. It’s a little ridiculous. It’s also worth mentioning that Weeds has the single most absurd tag line of any movie ever that’s not a pornographic film – “Feel what it’s like from the inside.”

Availability: No.

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