Here are some things that happen in Don Peyote: A badly animated CG tidal wave engulfs downtown Manhattan. Anne Hathaway performs martial arts in patent-leather pants. An elaborate midday orgy is interrupted by a murder-suicide. Speed Levitch hotboxes a mental asylum’s supply closet. Abel Ferrara curses out a fare as a cabbie in a fur-lined trapper hat. The hero of the picture, Warren Allman (Dan Fogler), launches spontaneously into the choreographed song and dance of a full-blown musical number — twice. It’s hardly unusual for a film to feature dream sequences.
Don Peyote takes the convention one step further: The film is nothing but dreams. Or perhaps hallucinations. Fogler, who co-wrote and co-directed over the course of several years with Michael Canzoniero, followed what he has described as an organic filmmaking process.
The strategy charges the work with an appealing spontaneity — you feel as if, at any moment, anything could happen. The problem is, seemingly everything does. We first meet Warren enjoying the somnambulant torpor of an early morning joint, and it isn’t long before he’s graduated to heavier indulgences, under whose influences he grows increasingly delusional.
The further Warren recedes into fantasy, the more incomprehensible the film becomes, and by its third act, Don Peyote has abandoned any pretense of telling a coherent story. At its best, this descent into madness plays out like a millennial stoner’s take on Jacob’s Ladder.
More often, it recalls a sobering truth: Nobody likes listening to someone ramble while high.