Thursday, February 16, 2017

Movie Review: "The Lost Weekend" (1945)

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Movie"The Lost Weekend"
Year Nominated: 1946
Director: Billy Wilder
Rating: NR
Running Time: 1 hour, 41 minutes
Did It Win?: Yes.

An alcoholic writer falls off the wagon and goes on a bender that propels him towards rock bottom. 

"The Lost Weekend" is directed by Billy Wilder, who helped write the screenplay along with Charles Brackett. This film is based on a novel by Charles R. Jackson. It stars Ray Milland as Don Birnam, an aspiring writer and a severe alcoholic. He is about to head out on a weekend vacation with his brother Wick, played by Phillip Terry. Don hasn't had a drink in 10 days thanks to the efforts of his brother and his girlfriend Helen St. James, played by Jane Wyman. Before he and his brother are about to leave, Don gets a hold of the $10 dollars that was meant for the cleaning lady and falls off the wagon on an alcoholic bender. 

This film is part character sketch, part cautionary tale against the uses of alcohol. It certainly takes Don to the extremes of alcoholism, almost into "Reefer Madness"-style propaganda territory as he starts having panicked hallucinations due to his bender. Though more modern films like "Leaving Las Vegas" have displayed more realistic views of severe alcoholism, "The Lost Weekend" does a good job considering the year in which it was made. It was likely groundbreaking when it comes to films of its era due to the fact that it is extremely candid in its display of the many real life habits of an alcoholic, like hiding liquor anywhere and everywhere, needing a quick fix, severe physical reactions like sweating, and the habitual lying about the severity of one's own alcoholism. It also shows the slew of enablers who stand by as Don drinks himself into a stupor, from bartenders to cashiers to his own brother, who constantly lies for Don and covers up his drunken escapades to his girlfriend to make him look better than the raging drunk he truly is.

Ray Milland puts on a fine performance as this alcoholic who quickly spirals towards rock bottom. Milland took home a best actor Oscar for his efforts, and we can't say we blame the Academy for this choice because his performance is stellar. That's not all of the awards garnered by this film-noir drama as it took home four Oscars out of seven total nominations, including best picture, best director, and best screenplay. Bold movies often get rewarded, and this movie is certainly bold, especially for its time. Looking back on it since its release in 1945, the subject has, of course, been covered a thousand times over as cinema has taken to venturing into much harder addictive substances, which causes "The Lost Weekend" to lose a bit of its punch now in 2017. That being said, this is still a solid flick with a captivating subject matter and lead performance.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 100%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
Last Oscar season, we were watching: "Juno"

Two Oscar seasons ago, we were watching: "To Kill A Mockingbird"

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