COLUMBIA PICTURES (2000)
Director: Betty Thomas
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Viggo Mortensen, Dominic West, Elizabeth Perkins, Diane Ladd, Steve Buscemi, Alan Tudyk

Gwen Cummings (Bullock) has a problem...a big problem...to her, it’s just some fun. To everyone else, it’s booze – and lot’s of it.

 

Immediately we are introduced to Gwen and her boyfriend, Jasper, partying and drinking the night away. After waking in a drunken haze, and realising she is late for her sister Lily’s (Elizabeth Perkins) wedding, she does what Gwen always does – drinks. What follows is a story about facing your mistakes, allowing yourself to realise that they will be there with you but showing that redemption can be with anyone who really wants it.

A story warning of the indulgence of addiction, however, the film becomes fairly indulgent within itself. Sandra Bullock delivers a solid performance, slightly against character perhaps, however provides the usual charismatic performance of a woman struggling with her addiction, her relationships and, yes, her life. Her interactions with the other characters felt organic and not forced, and provided a solid platform for the supporting cast. I found the ensemble of patients to be a refreshing change from the standard, and providing a more realistic approach than other movies portrayals – Alan Tudyk’s frustrated gay character being a highlight. The fact that their character development was allowed during the movie helped an awful lot, as a supporting cast actually supporting the story! Hooray! Viggo Mortensen portrayed a brooding outcast like Viggo Mortensen just...does – this being his final outing before hitting the heights in Middle Earth. Dominic West’s Jasper is a character who makes it easy for you to dislike him, so job well done there.

 

I wasn’t sold on Elizabeth Perkins performance as the mature big sister who has her life in order; it just didn’t click for me and I didn’t find her performance emotionally engrossing, and I don’t believe the chemistry between her and Bullock was right. It felt more like strangers than sisters. Additionally, I thought Andrea was a weak character considering she plays a pivotal part in the movie. Azura Skye’s performance was limp, and at points, grating – which is a shame as the character had potential given her storyline.

 

Bullock and Mortensen share some good scenes together, notably, the pitching scene. The contrast of Mortensen's lower-key demeanour and Bullock's charismatic nature complement each other nicely, and one scene towards the end of the second act actually flips the behaviours. Dependable performances from dependable actors. Additionally, Bullock and Alan Tudyk work very organically with each other, and you believe in their interactions. Steve Buscemi is reliable as the rehab director, delivering a solid, sober (no pun intended, or was there?) performance which helps glue the serious aspects of the movie together, and lends gravitas to the overall piece.

 

The movie is chugged along by a mixed soundtrack. Beginning with The Clash’s Should I Stay or Should I Go, and filled with songs by one of the patients (played by Loudon Wainwright III) played throughout the clinic, they aid the film but nonetheless aren’t entirely memorable. The staff and patients at the clinic do like to chant though...they do like to chant!

 

Is this a comedy or a drama? The movie is pitched as a drama regarding a serious subject; however, the comedic elements are too much for this to be considered a simple drama. At times the drama works, and sometimes the intentions fall flat, however, the comedic moments hit more often than not (with a cast including Sandra Bullock and Alan Tudyk, light-hearted fun should be expected)

 

Did I enjoy the movie? Yes. Will it enter my top 50 greatest movies? No. Will it smash into your life and never leave it? Who knows, but I doubt it. 28 Days is not a movie that would be cruising to awards for storytelling, cinematography or for breaking new ground, but it doesn't need to (though I liked the bustle of the city to the contrast of the clinic’s calm) As a story, it stands on its own two feet and provides a light, engaging tale that should leave you feeling good after viewing - whether it warrants repeat viewings, I'm not totally sold.

 

Though very formulaic, the story provides enough drama, laughs and emotions to keep you interested. Whilst the movie provides a soft look at a hard subject, and at times can seem to be preaching a bit too much, it returns an entertaining watch and good performances by a solid cast. I’d recommend at least one watch.

August 10th 2016

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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