Netflix recently put out its latest documentary based around celebrity’s LSD experiences and sprinkled it with some tips and tricks from the masters on how to manage the infamous drug. It is relatively short, only lasting about an hour and fifteen minutes but is filled with beautiful and entertaining animations, funny reenactments, and interviews from our favorite A-listers. If big names like Carrie Fischer, Sting, ASAP Rocky, and Bill Kreutzmann was not enough to pique your interest, the morsel of education the documentary offers about ‘tripping’ will surely grab your attention. The director, Donick Cary, who is famous for writing shows like Parks and Recreation, The Simpsons, and New Girl grabbed some old comedy friends to help him with the Netflix project. They came up with a way to frame the documentary with old PSAs about drugs from the late 80s and 90s that came across as naive and silly. The juxtaposition of the afterschool specials and the interviews of people who have experienced the drug shows the misinformation that has been spread about psychedelics and also offers a comical take on how frying an egg represents your brain on drugs (something we have all made fun of). This documentary takes a fun spin on what we have traditionally considered ‘drug culture’ and lets us get more personal with some of our favorite actors, comedians, and musicians.
One thing that stands out about this documentary is the animation style that introduces the film as well as reenacts the stories of the interviewees. It is a typical style that you would think of when imagining a trippy experience. It is full of bright colors, existential scenes, and many, many rainbows. The animation transitions very smoothly between different scenes, taking the viewer from the vibrant beach to the dark depths of space seamlessly. It is an animation one would expect to see from a psychedelic like DMT which, as learned from the documentary, can be an otherworldly experience, completely different from reality. The colorful scenes on the screen are paired with slow and calm music by Yo La Tengo which adds to the psychotropic vibe of the piece. The animation style is one of the saving graces for this documentary, as it is something that grabs your attention and forces you to pay attention to its vibrance and weird subject matter.
While the funny animations and reenactments do help, some of the interviews fall short of being funny. Jason Baily described it best in the New York Times. “Few things are funnier to a person than their own drug stories — or as unfunny to pretty much anyone else. This is the central conundrum of ‘Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics.’” People have always fantasized about sitting down with their favorite rockstar or actor and listen to their wild stories, but it turns out that it may be better to get to know them through another subject matter. Many of the interviews with people like Sara Silverman and ASAP Rocky seem like they would have been funny if you were there, but from the outside perspective, it hardly got a giggle. You can tell that the celebrity looks back on these times fondly, as a life-changing experience, but not all viewers have same connection to the events. Maybe the few audiences’ members who have tried psychedelics can relate but to the viewers like myself, who is just interested in the facts, the stories do not leave as much of an impression. It seems that the main attraction to these interviews themselves is the celebrity, and not the experience, unfortunately. However, as stated before, the animation helped to make the stories more interesting and humorous with exaggerated scenes and expressions that make the viewer feel that they could understand the experience more clearly.
One main purpose of the documentary is to give tips and tricks on how to handle a psychedelic drug, hence the name “Have a Good Trip”. They give the viewer first-hand experience to teach the viewer how to maintain a good trip while also breaking down old stereotypes of psychedelics from the late 20th century. Some of these include not looking at a mirror while tripping, being in nature, and surrounding yourself with people you trust while participating in the mind-altering substance. These seem helpful to persons who might dabble in the LSD and interesting to a person who just wants to learn more about the subject. However, even though it seems the main purpose of the film is to help someone have a good trip, it does seem drowned out by celebrity appearances and lack-luster stories. This idea might have worked better with more guests like Dr. Charles Grob and Deepack Chopra which could give a more factual account of how psychedelics can be used positively while also using a small number of celebrity stories to keep everything interesting and fun.
Besides the animation, there is one thing that ‘Have a Good Trip’ gets right by adding in many different types of stories which shows everyone’s own unique perspective and experience with the drug. Upon first watching, I began to become nervous that this was going to be a documentary on how everyone should love LSD and it will free your mind by simply having one night of existential fun. While the film does approach this idea, stating,” everyone should try it once,” it also gives accounts of people who have tried it and decided it was not the ‘holy grail’ of experiences. For example, Ben Stiller says,” I took acid once. Maybe didn’t even need to actually take it. Probably could’ve just watched this documentary.” ASAP Rocky also admits that this kind of experience is not for everyone and sometimes people ‘bug out.’ A bad trip is one of the very last things that the documentary hits on but I believe it was one of the more insightful points that was trying to be made. It points out how psychedelics are not always fun and sometimes things can take a turn for the worst. This makes it stand out from many other shows and documentaries that try to mold acid, shrooms, DMT, and peyote into a mind-expanding, ‘woke’ drug, when in reality it could just be a terrifying experience that does not teach you anything about yourself or the world around you. Ben Stiller explains the feeling of fear and anxiety heightened by acid, Lewis Black describes how frightened he was when he forgot his name, and Paul Scheer remembers the relief he felt when eating McDonald’s saved him from his trip. These are all possibilities when taking such a mind-altering drug and it is a good and responsible that the documentary explained the good AND the bad of making the choice to try acid.
Overall, the documentary had its good and bad qualities. While the celebrity stories came off as a ‘had to be there’ moments, the film stands out as one of the first documentaries to try to combat the misinformation about LSD while remaining funny and colorful. Having big name celebrities is one way to grab someone’s attention who is mindlessly scrolling through their streaming platform; however, they might have been overemphasized compared to the information the documentary was claiming to be giving the viewer. This is slightly disheartening but is made up for by the funny reenactments and Adam Scott’s ‘bad trip’ campaign. The tips on how to have a good trip where insightful and interviews from doctors and Deepak Chopra balanced out the celebrity experiences. It is worth the watch for all it is good and bad, and there is no doubt that you will be entertained no matter your position on the subject. Maybe you are considering tripping on psychedelics yourself? Watch this documentary before you decide to take that leap of faith.