A television writer's heroin addiction sinks his career goals and his marriage.
Usually I give no credence to people who say that a protagonist needs to be "likable." No, s/he doesn't have to be likable; s/he has to be interesting. But after watching Permanent Midnight, I can at least see an example of why likable protagonists make storytelling a little easier.
Jerry Stahl, as played by Ben Stiller, is a morose heroin addict who does anything to get his fix. Unlike other depictions of addiction, Permanent Midnight doesn't romanticize any aspect of Stahl's life, and as a result, there's nothing to like about him. I'm left wondering why people like him or want to hire him for anything. Sandra, Stahl's wife, comes off as a dull, blind idiot, as portrayed by the film. Because we in the audience can see no redeemable quality in Stahl and because the film's characters don't point out anything unique about him, it's easy to give up on his plight.
Stiller does play a convincing dramatic part, but he fails to lend his natural good humor to this character.
Overall, there's nothing new about heroin addiction or Hollywood in this film, but it did teach me a little something about whether or not I should dismiss most of what is said in a creative writing workshop.