Monday, February 25, 2008

#98: Days of Wine and Roses (Edwards, 1962)

So, Jack Lemmon makes his first appearance and definitely not his last on my list. What is it about this guy that I find so appealing? For starters, he’s one hell of an actor with incredible dramatic range and comedic talent with a knack for effortlessly switching gears between the two without missing a beat. Lemmon has the nice guy persona down-pat and took on many roles during his career where he personified the “every man” which makes him instantly relatable. In Blake Edward’s Day of Wine and Roses, Lemmon plays Joe Clay, a successful public relations man whose downward spiral is caused by alcoholism. Many comparisons have been made to Wilder’s Lost Weekend which deals with similar subject matter except this one is a much more realistic portrayal of alcohol addiction and doesn’t succumb to painting a perfect picture of full recovery at the end. Instead, it opts to show the horrors of alcohol abuse and the challenging ordeal of maintaining sobriety with all the pratfalls in between.

Clay’s profession involves being an avid socialite with clients so naturally, drinking is part of the equation when he takes them out to restaurants or fancy clubs. He starts a relationship with a beautiful secretary in his office building played by the voluptuous Lee Remick whose radical transformation from a puritan to a raging alcoholic is devastatingly portrayed. My only gripe with the film is her sudden change of heart towards Lemmon who strongly resents him when they first meet and then erratically has a change of heart almost instantaneously. It would have been a lot more convincing if she actually had a reason to give him another chance after he insults her. Still, I am able to overlook this minor formality in regards to everything that the film does get right which is plenty – two tour-de force performances from Lemmon and Remick who were robbed of acting Oscars that year, solid direction and a wonderful script with nary a falsity that is unflinching in presenting the harsh reality of how alcoholism can destroy lives. The films closing moments are heartbreaking and ambiguous in nature which works to emphasize Edward’s position that beating alcoholism takes more than commitment where difficult decisions need to be made no matter how unpleasant the results.


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