"Self-Medicated" must have been cathartic for writer-director-producer-star Monty Lapica to make, but its therapeutic value for audiences is questionable.
Reportedly based on Lapica's experience as a privileged but delinquent teen committed to a rehab boot camp, the ambitious first-filmmaking effort boasts a host of awards from the festival circuit. That acclaim, however, like the many moments of unearned emotion in the film (plumped by a melodramatic score), seems overblown.
Lapica plays Andrew, a 17-year-old former A student in Las Vegas whose father's death has sent him into a spiral of drug use and violence. Unable to cope with Andrew's deterioration, his mother has him taken by force to a private hospital that turns out to specialize more in punishment than cure. The 2005 film's central question, explored meanderingly, is whether Andrew needs such treatment or can heal himself.
The then-24-year-old Lapica -- who looks far too old for high school -- might be wearing too many hats; his performance lacks the modulation that would make his journey convincing. His script doesn't achieve its apparent aim of exposing abuses at some private rehab institutions. Apart from comically over-aggressive behavior by one counselor, the treatment Andrew receives hardly resembles the "hell" he describes. In fact, the punishments seem downright mild, considering the extremes of Andrew's behavior -- not to mention his insufferable, self-pitying brattiness. An experienced external eye might have done much to fix such problems.