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William A. Wellman
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Don Birnam, long-time alcoholic, has been "on the wagon" for ten days and seems to be over the worst; but his craving has just become more insidious. Evading a country weekend planned by his brother Wick and girlfriend Helen, he begins a four-day bender. In flashbacks we see past events, all gone wrong because of the bottle. But this bout looks like being his last...one way or the other. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Paramount were very nervous about releasing a film with such an adult theme and very nearly buried it when it didn't do too well with preview audiences. Ultimately, of course, it went on to become a major hit and Academy Award winner. See more »
Position of Don's hand changes. This is when Don gets Wick to call Helen after standing her up to meet her parents. See more »
more than just a simple "message" movie, Wilder tries to make addiction as human a crisis as possible
Although in some respects some of the conditions and dialog from the Lost Weekend have become dated, the performances and the ideas behind it- plus the heightened style of it- make it work many years down the line. Oscar winning director Billy Wilder makes Don Birnem's struggle something that is unmistakable, especially if you've been around these kinds of people. Most of us have seen the drunk at the end of the bar with grandiose ideas and romanticized visions amid that need (nevermind enjoyment) of the booze. But the film is successful if only because it makes this obsession with the flailing writer Don as his major internal conflict, and that it goes deeper to something that is in many of us, even if we don't drink.
Basically, Don wants to get off alcohol so he can write his great book. Despite some advice from the "friendly enemy" (as I would call one) local bartender, and the girl Gloria, there is little hope for him it seems. He goes on a four-day bender, looking frantically all over the apartment when it's not in easy reach. This all leads up to going clean, which involves a truly paranoid-filmed sequence by Wilder (one of his very best).
It is almost all harrowing drama, and only in the minute moments when Don is completely unsympathetic does the film lose some of its momentum. But really, the film is as much about the psychology of this man, of the writer in desperation (though never wanting to admit it), and Ray Milland's performance (at least for the time) was daring enough to show as much as could be shown at the time. The film probes just enough into the subject matter to not become very preachy (I don't think Wilder's message is to never drink ever as much as one of keeping control of one's life and system), and at the core is just entertaining drama.
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