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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Wow. What a BRILLIANT piece of cinema.
Drunks has to be hands down one of the most important and accurate films I've seen to date about Substance abuse.
As a person with a father who died of Alcoholism, this film really helped me gain understanding.
It helped me not only cope with my father's disease but gave me tremendous understanding to what he went through as an addict.
Having attended a lot of the AAA meetings in my life, the film was spot on.
Brilliant, real, funny, and full of heart... and tears.
I would recommend adding this to your library if you haven't already.
Richard Lewis is one of my all-time favorite comedians. Mel Brooks once
called him the Franz Kafka of comedy, and it's not far from the truth.
The guy crafts such agonizing and harrowing comedy out of neuroses and
problems and just common familial and relationship and whatever dread
that it's staggering to watch (seeing him recently it was even more
free-form and stream-of-conscious than ever, like Kurt Vonnegut and
Woody Allen in a Bowery bar telling penis jokes). But he also was, in
his past, troubled and on drugs and alcohol and went to a therapist for
years and so on, and finally kicked it for good in the early 90s (he
even wrote a sprawling, scatter-shot tell-all book called The Other
Great Depression). So, in 1995, he took the lead part in Drunks, and if
it may seem like his performance as Jim is so spot on and incredible
it's more than likely because he knows this character, maybe all too
I go on about Lewis so much just because he's the character most on the edge, the one falling off amongst all these other AA people meeting in a Manhattan Church, that it's impossible to take your eyes off him when he shows up. Jim, who speaks very reluctantly to the couple of dozen people at the AA meeting, lost his wife to a brain aneurysm two years after becoming sober from booze and junk. Then he slipped and went back and at the time of the meeting he hasn't had a drink in several months. Right after this long and heartfelt confession he leaves and wanders the streets, tempted at first and finally giving in to his insatiable craving to whiskey and beer. While he goes from either bar to his apartment or on the streets for drugs the film cuts back to the AA meeting where other people share their experiences, some fatally tragic like the blackout guy, or Dianne Wiest's doctor, or Faye Dunaway's upper-class mother, or Sam Rockwell's seemingly regular guy, or even Parker Posey as an ex-hippie chick.
Hell, even Calista Flockheart gives a showstopper of a performance, which is an indicator of how on top of things the actors are here. It is, if as a real liability, written and performed like a play, and it's broken up as a series of monologues inter-cut with Jim in his downward spiral mode. The good thing about director Peter Cohn's approach is that even if a monologue falls kind of flat- I actually didn't care much for Spalding Gray who sort of mumbled through his character's turn as the guy who just showed up not knowing it was an AA meeting in the basement of the church- it can cut back to Richard Lewis who, in particular in one later scene at a bar, lays it down to such a heartbreaking beat that you almost wish he was in a Bergman movie or something - or, for that matter, one of Woody Allen's serious films. He's that amazing here, whether it's just how he is or if it's a "performance" or whatever. It's an actor's movie, and for that it works well. Just don't watch it for anything fancy or flashy; it's slightly obscure for that reason, since it doesn't have a real "star" attached.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Drunks first and foremost is a great actors piece, showing that director Peter Cohn definitely knowing how to direct actors (in that sense, anyone who wants to be a director and actor should watch this film). It really gives the ensemble cast something to work with. Especial kudos go to Richard Lewis as the main character Jim who is still at a crisis in his life after being 2 years sober and ends "relapsing" to use a Alcoholics Anonymous term (this film takes place during an AA meeting). Secondary kudos to supporting characters Dianne Wiest and Faye Dunaway. Also be on the lookout for a young Calista Flockhart (of Ally McBeal fame). A strong 8 out of 10.
"Drunks" is a satisfying glimpse into an AA meeting. The setting is realistic; it takes place in what appears to be a basement room of a church - there is coffee, cigarette smoking, and people who are on the edge. The movie's strength resides in its incredibly gifted cast: Diane Wiest (a particularly superb, understated performance to which we've become accustomed), Harold Robbins, Jr.,(you can feel his tension), Spaulding Grey (the ultimate humorist), Amanda Plummer (fantastic), Sam Rockwell (who is, unfortunately, underutilized). Also giving nice turns are Calista Flockhart (not yet marked with the Ally McBeal imprint) and Faye Dunaway (whose rich, deep voice resonates as ever). And, of course, there's Richard Lewis, who effectively applies his ample, frenetic energy in a bold, dramatic direction as a recovering alcoholic who takes a nose-dive off the wagon. We watch as Lewis's partners from AA, worried about his sobriety, try in vain to contact him. Meanwile, the movie turns it focus to the other characters attending the meeting. Some may be of the opinion that this movie should have allowed the main characters more time to develop their personal stories. However, not all people who attend an AA meeting say that much - or actively participate at all. While this was disappointing in the sense that one is left wanting more screen time from such capable actors, the writer and director maintained the veracity of the subject matter. "Drunks" provides the viewer with a realistic depiction of addiction as a symptom of "inner demons." The characters whose lives we get to peek into share this manifestation of the pain they carry deep inside, but their monologues shows us that the reasons for their pain are unique. Unlike, "Days of Wine and Roses," where the plot revolves around how just two characters play off of each other, "Drunks" uses short vignettes - almost like headlines - to punctuate a multitude of perspectives on the same disease.
As others have stated "Drunks" is less a movie than a string of
monologues. Since these monologues are presented by a group of very
fine actors, "Drunks" is essential viewing for acting students.
The performances are uniformly strong, with stand outs from Faye Dunaway, Calista Flockhart and a particularly well drawn, understated turn by Dianne Wiest. A great pity that Kevin Corrigan and Sam Rockwell are around and given nothing much to do. Richard Lewis has the central role, and to his credit, puts in a convincing performance.
The other, far larger group for whom this movie has great relevance is that of the addictive personality. Although the movie is dealing with alcoholism, it could quite easily be substituted by a host of substances or activities which in effect take over and often ruin lives. "Drunks" very much brings home the suffering that addiction causes, while stressing the suffering which led to the addiction itself.
An unsatisfying film, whose parts in themselves, make it worthy.
The title of the movie pretty much sums up it subject matter. At the
same time, 'Drunks' is shown from the perspective of those persons who
are trying to save themselves from alcoholism. It shows them talking
about their problems and lives through an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.
Most of the film takes place in one night, and centers around one main
character - Jim (Richard Lewis). His character is just about the only
one we get to know deeply. In an act of desperate rebellion, he walks
out of the AA meeting in order to get a drink (or maybe two, three, or
The film juxtaposes Jim's desperate night out from one liquor store and bar to the next with the other reforming alcoholics talking during their meeting. As the night progresses, Richard Lewis gets more and more drunk, wasted, and out of control. He also begins to experiment with other drugs. Overall, this is not a bad film - it is mostly a character study. The stories the alcoholics have to tell are funny, tragic, and moving. Those who enjoy dialog movies will likely enjoy this film. Faye Dunaway also plays a small role in it.
I really liked the ending of the movie. It goes to show how so many alcoholics don't succeed in becoming sober and they are trapped in an endless and dangerous cycle. This cycle perhaps has no way out.
As a recovering alcoholic, and having seen some of the "preachy" movies, or the drama of Days of Wine and Roses, I found this movie to be just what it is, an AA meetings. Nothing to prove. Nothing to say. Each telling his story and one can take what he needs, and leave the rest. I enjoyed it as a means of letting others get an inside look at a meeting. Not much else to say. As for the relapse of Lewis, and his going back out and using, it was OK, but his return at the end, starting all over again, is just the way it is. Good movie, but not good enough to watch again and again.
I saw Blackout, the play that this movie is based, when it played in
Los Angeles. The play itself is incredible and is one of the best plays
in theater, in my opinion.
The movie, Drunks, captures what is best about the play: the great writing and dialog that when given to talented actors, create unforgettable performances that will make you laugh and cry.
The characters, their stories, and their world are real. There is no preaching or message or apologetic reason given. The characters are all in transit in their own lives and for their own reasons. And you're allowed a fascinating glimpse into their lives.
If you enjoy great writing and performances and watching people in their nakedly honest moments, you should watch Drunks.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I got out my DVD and watched this again last night. I believe this was
originally a made-for-Showtime movie, and premiered the same year as
another movie I can kinda see as good companion pieces to one another-
"Leaving Las Vegas". Comedian Richard Lewis, who I believe is a
recovering alcoholic himself, and coincidentally had a small role in
LLV as well, stars in this ensemble drama set in one night surrounding
an AA meeting. His character takes off on a relapse around the city as
his fellow AA members go into all their stories.
This is such a great film about addiction, and all the little things that can trigger relapses- the times, places, memories, people, etc... Lewis's performance in this rivals anything Anthony Hopkins, Robert DeNiro, Marlon Brando have ever done, so it kinda surprises me his acting career didn't go farther than it did. And look for some other great performances from some other heavy hitters- including no less than Faye Dunaway, Parker Posey, Calista Flockheart, Sam Rockwell, etc...
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This is Peter Cohn's film adaptation of a Gary Lennon play, and as is the case with most theatre to film crossovers, there is a rumbling sense of unfulfillment. Each fleeting view into the lives of these sad souls is too brief, never allowing the time to really absorb any one character, as you might do were you to watch an actual performance of the play. That said, Mr Cohn has assembled a very fine cast indeed, and although the roles are delivered in a "wait your turn..speak..sit down" style, you can see why a couple of these actors are considered 'greats' in their field. Richard Lewis offers an adequate performance as 'Jim' and is the only one afforded the opportunity of giving his character depth. Elsewhere, Howard Rollins, Calista Flockhart and Faye Dunaway all do a pleasing job with what little they're given, while Amanda Plummer and Sam Rockwell are criminally under-used. It is however, the stalwart skills of both Dianne Wiest and Spalding Grey that lift this film. Along with 'Rich' the bar-man adding unintentional comic relief (watch how he throws those coasters down!), they almost justify the rental fee. So grab a bottle of bourbon, sit back and wallow in the self-pity of others. It might just cheer you up.
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