Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The Lost Weekend

The Lost Weekend, 1945
Directed by Billy Wilder
Nominated for 7 Oscars, Won 4

Synopsis: Don Birnam is an alcoholic. He's been clean for 10 days, while under strict supervision from his brother, Wick, and girlfriend, Helen. But when Wick plans a weekend for them in the country, he evades it last minute, while his brother goes on. Leaving him alone for 4 days. Needless to say, he goes on a drinking rampage. Told in flashbacks of his past, and living in the present, we get a sense of who Don Birnam really is, and wonder if he'll ever stop.

This movie was quite a depressing one, I must say. We are first introduced to Don, packing away for his country weekend vacation and we immediately know something isn't quite right with him. Wick, his brother, seems to be keeping a close eye, and they keep mentioning "his current state" and "the last few days". And suddenly we realize it. We see Don luring up a bottle of alcohol that's been dangling out the window, while his brother goes to answer the door. We're dealing with an alcoholic.

Immediately, we are staring to see who Don is. He's a smooth talker, persuading his brother to go to the orchestra with his (Don's) girlfriend Helen, on account of wanting time to himself after "all he's been through". He persuades the cleaning lady to tell him where Wick hides the money he pays her with. And he's a smart dresser. He's a writer, and he's living in New York.

Throughout the film we see Don take many trips to the bar just down from his apartment, buying beer wherever he can, all the while the bartenders being warned about him, though Don is able to pay, so they can't deny him. We see Wick quickly give up on Don. He's been looking after him for far too long, and decides to go on the trip without him. He states it would be better for them all if Don were dead, which was brought up as a possibility if Wick leaves him alone for days at a time. Only Helen cares for him, and tries to look out for him. Throughout the film, we see flashbacks of how Don and Helen met, how he was an alcoholic even then, and just how much alcohol screws up your life. You steal, you blow off friends, parties and socializing to drink. It consumes you as you consume it.

What I found interesting about this film, is that Don was a very real person. We understood him, in a funny way, knew that he would steal money from a lady's purse to pay his drinking bills, not be able to resist the urge to buy more drinks, and to not call Helen back. In a weird way, this made sense to the watcher. Don wasn't being shown as the stereotypical alcoholic, who is messy and smelly and disgusting. But he was shown as a real man, who suffered, though it may not always show on the outside. We knew he would blow off time with people to drink, and we almost understood why. He knew he was going to steal, and once again, we understood that too. It brought alcoholism down to a very real level, which is incredible, since it was made so long ago, when addictions were still a touchy subject.

 Billy Wilder, the director, brought us down to the same level as Don, making the film so believable. And during the 40's, addictions like alcoholism weren't things that were talked about. They were closet issues, and never brought up. This was a controversial thing, to bring to the theatre. But without a doubt, it is an incredibly made film.

Ray Milland, who plays Don, is truly incredible, and rightly won Best Actor for the role. He transforms from put together man, to drunkard so well and so believably. He tiptoes the line between both and shows just how much alcohol can ruin your life, without being preachy about it, but showing alcohol addiction as it truly is.

I was impressed by this film. Black and white films and just old films in general never seem to really capture my attention, but this film I was concentrated in. I watched every minute, and truly believed it all. A better film from the "golden olden days".

Acting- 9/10 
Directing- 8/10 
Screenplay- 7.5/10 
Visuals- 8/10 
Music- 7.5/10 
Rewatchability- 7/10 
Emotional Connection 7/10 
Entertainment- 7.5/10 
Overall Enjoyment- 8.5/10 
Overall Package- 8/10       

Total: 78/100

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