Just Walk Away Renee –
You Won’t See Nigel following this one Back to the Theater
I caught Renee at its alleged world premiere as the closing night film of the Omaha Film Festival this past March. Accompanying the almost full house were producers David McKenna (who is portrayed in the film by Rupert Friend) and Kim Dawson (who you may remember for bringing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to the big screen), and actor Chad Michael Murray (of One Tree Hill fame), all of whom gave a lengthy Q&A sesh preceding the film’s screening.
Renee tells the true story of Renee Yohe (played by Kat Dennings from 2 Broke Girls, Thor, and 40 Year Old Virgin) a young woman with a good upbringing and a promising future, but battling depression and self loathing. Her so-called friends introduce her to the world of recreational drug use, through which she finds temporary solace, but this pastime soon turns into an addiction and her life spirals out of control. When Renee has just about hit bottom, she meets some new friends with whose help she seeks treatment for her addiction and depression. They go on to form a non-profit organization targeted toward helping teens with drug addiction, depression, and self mutilation tendencies. The organization, To Write Love on Her Arms, was inspired by two words Renee carved into her own arm—FUCK UP. To Write Love on Her Arms has since grown into a movement that has helped countless teens get back on the right track from drug addiction and depression.
But Renee’s story does not actually end on such a high note. Her rehabilitation seems successful at first, but it’s not long before she falls back in with her old friends and rekindles old habits. This is not a feel good movie that promises hope for rehabilitation. In fact, one of the film’s producers (whose name I shan’t mention to avoid unwanted publicity and a potential lawsuit) admitted to having the worst cocaine binge of his/her life shortly after shooting of the film was completed.
As Dawson stated, the filmmakers set out to make an antidrug film geared toward younger audiences, and in doing so held back on the sex, violence, language, and drug use to appease the MPAA. The resulting product feels like a Disney Channel™ version of Requiem for a Dream or Trainspotting, if that’s possible (it even features Disney Channel™ alum Corbin Bleu™ in a supporting role).
The film also contains a plethora of popular music, even featuring guest appearances by a few of the musicians in several fantasy sequences, no doubt intended to be a hit with the kids. The filmmakers cut down on many of the real life horrors that go along with drug addiction, and in essence fail to get their message across. While at the same time, I fear the mere fact that there is drug use in the film at all may garner it an R rating, making it difficult for it to reach its targeted audience. So Renee may have lost on both fronts.