28 Days3 min readReading Time: 3 minutes
Sandra Bullock is a sight for sore eyes, and I’d follow her anywhere – even to a rehab clinic, where she spends much of her time in 28 Days. Sandra is so sunny; she doesn’t look like she could be addicted to anything stronger than Perrier with lime. But despite her sunshine quotient, Sandra believably portrays a pill-popping alcoholic named Gwen, and she does it with an endearing sardonic charm.
The morning after one of Gwen’s wild nights – which included a small fire in her apartment that she and her drunken boyfriend playfully put out – Gwen wakes up late for her sister’s wedding. And that’s without a hangover, which I don’t understand because I’m paying the price after just one glass of wine, but Gwen is a professional party girl for that.
Gwen is one of those playful drunks, and she’s really funny, but you have to be drunk yourself to really appreciate her humor. “I’m late because my tits caught fire,” she jokingly tells someone after discovering a bra burned in last night’s fire.
It’s understandable that Gwen’s strict sister Lily (Elizabeth Perkins) is annoyed when Gwen finally arrives at Lily’s wedding stumbling and disheveled. Gwen makes fun of Lily’s big day by, among other things, making an embarrassing toast and falling butt-first into the wedding cake.
After staggering outside and discarding her frosting-soaked bridesmaid dress, Gwen steals a limo and drives to the nearest bakery to replace the cake she just destroyed. Instead, she crashes into a neighbor’s lawnmower and through someone’s porch, and faster than you can say Johnny Walker on the rocks, the film’s lovable party animal finds herself in a rehab clinic.
Here, in the peaceful lakeside rehab, 28 Days, directed by Betty Thomas, takes some liberties that sometimes go awry. Betty, who directed a witty, updated version of The Brady Bunch, brings a lot of humor to 28 Days, which is very welcome. She also uses some appropriately distorted camera angles to show Gwen’s blurry life, which helps the film. The problem, after all, is the film’s main character. Oh, Gwen is extremely likable, don’t get me wrong, but she never really comes into her own. When she arrives at rehab, Gwen is still on a bender: she has painkillers smuggled onto the premises. She also sneaks out on her first night, only to return drunk, and on another occasion, she anxiously climbs out of a second-story window to grab some pills. Sobering up, however, comes all too easily to Gwen. In fact, she could be a living, breathing advertisement for Alcoholics Anonymous, because about 72 hours into her treatment, she completely succumbs to all the chants and encouragement that come with the twelve-step programs. Who knew it was so easy?
Alcoholism has long been one of Hollywood’s most popular vices and is glamorized far too often in film. 28 Days follows in the footsteps of some classic films like Days of Wine and Roses and The Lost Weekend, both of which treated the subject with more realism and melodrama. That’s not to say 28 Days is without melodrama; through a series of flashbacks, Gwen revisits her alcoholic mother, giving Gwen insight into her own drinking problem. The film also gives Gwen a whole group of 12-steppers to interact with, and most of these characters are played-out stereotypes, like her emotionally fragile roommate who is on the verge of suicide. There’s also a flaming queen whose accent flip-flops all over continental Europe, and an irascible doctor who has no kind word to say about anything or anyone. And Viggo Mortensen, with typical swagger, plays a professional baseball player named Eddie Boone, who offers Gwen a touch of romance in the rehab clinic.
In no time, Gwen manages to charm both her fellow addicts and her movie audience; Sandra Bullock has charisma to burn, and in 28 Days, her charisma goes a long, long way.