From the title alone I knew this wasn't going to be a comedy. 1977's The Death of Richie is one of about 20 movies I watch to help me go to sleep. I have no idea why I'd pick this one, it's just so happy. Richie (Robby Benson) is a big time drug addict. There's no other way to describe it. It seemed to start out so innocently but than, Richie had issues besides his crazy drug habit. He had an old, out-of touch dad played too well by Ben Gazzara. Eileen Brennan turned in great performance as Richie's frazzled mom.
The movie is filled with "hilarious" moments but perhaps none more odd than when Richie's dad barged into Richie's room after a night getting high with the boys. Yeah, that's what everyone needs, Dad crying on your bed prattling on about being a forest ranger. A forest ranger? Go back to bed!
<---While you're friends are playing some corny music and a girl you like is with some dude, there's nothing left to do but cry. And oh yeah, get high!
Throughout the movie Richie's drug use increases to staggering and quite unsettling proportions. Richie's smoking the ganja, doing Quaaludes and doing LSD. To make matters worse, Richie made his own little psychedelic shack/drug den inside of his bedroom. Now that was a great idea. Given all of this we see the parenting styles. Mom wants rap sessions with other beleaguered parents and Dad wants to put Richie in jail. It got so bad that jackass was taping Richie's conversations with some foolish contraption in the basement.
Even a half-awake viewer can tell this is getting ready to get out of control (the title is a giveaway.) Richie's got a vague "crazy" diagnosis from a doctor and his drug intake is increasing. You know what else is on the upswing? His ol' funny moods. His outbursts/tantrums are off the hook. In a stirring crescendo, Richie and his dad's last flight happens in the basement. Richie blazed on something yells, "Shoot me!" His father obliges.
Armchair Analysis: Upon clearer reflection I can safely say that Richie's dad was an asshead and the murder was premeditated. The real life "Richie's dad" didn't serve a day in prison.
Grade **** It gets an extra half-star for Benson's sympathetic performance and the fact that this really captures the '70s.