WOW!!!! As a movie goer who watches at least four films per week, and who is very interested in the harrowing politics of the human soul, I can safely say that there has never been a better movie about alcoholism (no, not even "Days of Wine and Roses") than "Drunks". When I read the plot synopsis on the back cover of the tape case, I was expecting some preachy AA recruitment nonsense. This movie was nothing of the sort. "Drunks" is, for better or worse, a very realistic treatment of addiction, and of 12 step programs in general. The format of the film juxtaposes monologues from AA members during a meeting, with one off- the- wagon evening in the life of Richard Louis' character (I can't remember his name).
Richard Louis is not one of my favorite comedians (understatement of the year), but he pulls off a tour de force performance here. Due to Louis's textured performance, towards the end of "Drunks" I reached a full
understanding of his character, and the knowledge that recovery isn't just "quitting the sauce", but an individual's willingness to look his demons in the eye, and face up to his own particular hell. The ensemble cast of talented actors (including Calista Flockhart, Faye Dunawaye, Dianne Weist, Parker Posey, and a highly amusing Spaulding Grey) do wonders with their monolouges, which are so well written, you feel like you are there, eavesdropping on a meeting in a Times Square church meeting. I absolutely recommend this movie. I wish that it had gotten more publicity during its original theatrical release.
An inside peek at the goings-on of an unusually attractive Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Richard Lewis's character exists to provide a moral center for the film as it examines his desperate efforts to stay sober. The various members of the AA group provide different glimpses at what contributes to alcoholism and demonstrate that there is no one profile for what constitutes a "drunk."
There are very nice performances in this film, particularly those of a pre-Ally McBeal Calista Flockhart and Parker Posey. The film's scene stealer and the most memorable drunk of all, however, is monologuist Spalding Grey, doing a hilarious turn as a church choir member who shows up at the wrong church. In the midst of explaining his blunder to the group he rhapsodizes brilliantly on the importance of Guinness in his life and discovers quietly that gee, maybe he too has a drinking problem.
Overall the individual performances divert attention from the main storyline and provide more of a center for the film than Lewis, whose story is ultimately uninteresting. But check it out for Spalding Grey, who is probably the most natural actor in the film and a true pleasure to watch.
"Drunks" deserves a better wide release than it received in the early 90's. It's not an easy film to digest, but if "Six Feet Under" can make us look at mortality, death, and grieving a little easier, than this film can help others see this disease a little more clearly.
Hollywood has portrayed drunks as lovable figures, whether it be W.C. Fields' characters to "Barfly" (was Bukowski ever truly happy, though, or was Rourke's characterization just an acceptance of a barfly's life? Yet, we all know people who have gone from social drinker to lost in themselves.
"Once Were Warriors." The great "The Lost Weekend." "Reqiuem for a Dream." "Nil by Mouth." "Under the Volcano." Leaving Las Vegas." "Less Than Zero." Thousands of lives have been damaged by alcoholism, and if you ever want to see a real tragedy, look at the people on these screens and, if you see yourself, you might be in real trouble.
Back to the film. Basically, this a film of monologues, yet each contains more power than you might think when you hear the word "monologue." Lewis' performance is of course, great, as the reviews say, but please read his autobiography to discover how far he was from becoming Jim. It is a must-read for any addict, and while not an addict, it has helped me personally with some of my problems. Another great performances include the late Howard Rollins, of TV's "In the Heat of the Night" fame, who also was an addict at various points in his life. Splading Gray, a brilliant actor who committed suicide due to depression, also gives a brilliant performance as a man who wanders upon the meeting, and realizes he is one of them. A young Calista Flockhart and Faye Dunway find the right notes as addicts who need to sponsor each other. Even performances from Lisa Gay Hamilton (TV's "The Pratice")as an HIV positive woman, are damn strong.
That's the key to the film. There may be no happy endings, but there is no preaching, and no sermonizing. Please, I urge you to seek this one out if you ever wonder what a real AA meeting is about, and get it more accessible to your friends who might need it to see it ... or yourself. It's not preachy, but it's a good drama.
I'm off my soapbox: Please see this as drama. And remember if you need help, there is always someone there, don't give up. And hopefully, this film, will help you see that even the most self-destructive person can survive.
Since Richard Lewis is known primarily as a comic, it was surprising how well he handled the intense drama in this movie. I think he must have been drawing from personal experience, at least a little, because it all seems very real when he's on the screen.
Review speaks openly about plot points that you are better off not knowing...
Movie opens at an AA meeting, at which Lewis reluctantly shares his feelings. Soon after he bolts from the meeting and is on the trail of a bottle, even though he's been on the wagon for two years. The meeting goes on without him, and you get many monologues. They range from excellent (Lisa Gay Hamilton, Howard Rollins, Spalding Gray, Amanda Plummer) to acceptable (Faye Dunaway, Dianne Wiest) to annoying (Parker Posey, Calista Flockhart). Sam Rockwell is very good but does not have that much to do. The sharing of emotions seems a little improvised by some of them.
As the meeting continues, you see Lewis go off the wagon and become a very angry drunk. He goes to a bar he used to frequent and insults the new owner (Christopher Lawford) by attempting to shoot some heroin at a table! Not even in the mens room! But it makes sense because by now Lewis is raw, and I bet liquor hits you like a ton of bricks after being off it for so long.
It comes together at the end, as you see Lewis at a different AA meeting, about to start all over again.
7/10. Engrossing while you are watching it and interesting, but not too much for the memory bank.
they say in the program "one day at a time". some days are harder than others. DRUNKs represents that better than any film i have ever seen. I am the member of a twelve step program. I think it is one of the greatest international communities that exists. it has changed countless lives and i am hard pressed to think or find one person who's life hasn't been affected positively by it's existence. it is a secular religion -if you will.
I believe this is the most realistic and resonant film that has ever taken as it's focus the program and it's demographic busting community.
i think the level of talent that came together to make this is a testament to it's quality.
it is not a rose colored take on the community. it reflects as does the program the myriad ways that people use, don't use, succeed and fail.
Jim (Richard Lewis) attends an AA meeting very worried about something. His sponsor encourages him to talk. He does...and immediately leaves. The rest of the movie involves him trying not to drink and it keeps going back to the meeting where we, one by one, hear each member say why they're there.
I caught this at a small art cinema way back in 1997 and I never forgot it. It perfectly captures what an AA meeting is like and the stories related are harrowing. Quite a few well known actors play members: Sam Rockwell (still unknown at the time), Amanda Plummer, Parker Posey, Dianne Wiest, Calista Flockheart and Faye Dunaway. Their considerable acting talents make the stories seem realistic and hard to shake off. There's no happy endings here. Grim and disturbing but realistic. Sometime the staginess shows through (you can tell this was based on a play) which is why I can only give it an 8. Still, it's well worth watching.
Excellent, honest, does not pull any punches in it's grim reality of addiction and the struggles to get clean.
The writing by Mr. Lennon is so truthful that it does not seem like a movie we are watching, but peeking into people's lives.
The acting and direction were inspired and very realistic. If you want to see an honest movie about addiction and the ravages it causes...this is it. Be ready because it is not some Hollywood sugar coated piece of fluff thatt we are sujected to. Looking forward to seeing more of Mr. Lennon's writing transfered to film...a truly honest and unique voice. Incredible performances by all of the cast. Tight direction as well. Stands up to films in this genre..."Panic in Neddle Park", "Hatful of Rain"...etc...Don't miss it.
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 well.
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.
I rented this and was very surprised by how good it was.
The writing was so strong and the actors took those words and soared. There is not one false note. It felt like a CASSAVETTES film. Honesty on screen is what I look for in films.
This film felt like real life. Real time. I could relate to these characters. Feel their pain.
Their stories were compelling. I couldn't take my eyes of the screen
My favorite performances were Lisa Gay Hamilton and the late Howard Rollins.
They moved me to tears. I hope this movie gets to be seen by others who are struggling with addiction. The message finally got to me and it is interesting that it came to me in the guise of a movie. I am now going out and buying the DVD and the play that the film is based on.
I agree with several posters who say that people in recovery should watch this film. I also believe that every treatment facility should show this to the patients/clients based on the raw, gritty and realistic portrayals of addiction and addicts. However, I would be careful showing this movie in a substance abuse program at a men's prison due to the brief depiction of nude breasts. Some of the audience members *may* be distracted by the flash of flesh and forget the true message/intention of the movie. I would also not recommend this film if you're offended by "F-bombs". **SPOILER ALERT - sorta** There's a scene where Jim (Richard Lewis) is "sharing his grief" with a complete stranger at a bar - a stranger who's trying to be polite but wants to escape. Anyway, as I watched this scene with the "Closed-Captioning" activated, I noticed that each new caption on the screen had "f**k" (or a variation thereof) displaying. **END MILD SPOILER ALERT** Here's my synopsis of the film. **SPOILER ALERT #2** Jim, a recovering alcoholic/heroin addict is getting a room in a church ready for an AA meeting. His sponsor (George Martin) asks him to speak since the original speaker couldn't make it. Jim's reluctant to speak, but his sponsor presses him on. As Jim gives a half-hearted lead, we learn that he got sober simply to keep his wife happy. Since his wife has passed away, we can see that Jim's motivation to stay sober has gone as well. We see this as Jim wanders New York, getting wasted on booze. He's so desperate for companionship that he seeks a hooker - who only wants heroin. Jim goes to a park, buys heroin and steals a syringe from another junkie passed out in the park. Jim staggers back to his old bar and attempts to cook the heroin when he's thrown out. The film ends with a thoroughly wasted Jim at an AA meeting admitting that at the end of the day he'll have a full day of sobriety. I feel as though the film is trying to say that even if a recovering person relapses, they can always try their recovery again. **END SPOILER ALERT #2** "F-bombs" and nudity aside, I highly recommend this film to people in recovery and substance abuse counselors as well.
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.
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.
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 four?).
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 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.
Very well-acted and moving film in places, top marks going to actors Spalding Grey and Howard Rollins jr but all in all, a very poor depiction of AA. The film was depressing and lacklustre yet still portrayed the AA experience as being too positive. This film is for people who wonder what AA is all about without ending up there. The truth is however more grim. As with all of these films that tackles issues pertaining to addiction, the central premise is a character who goes completely off the rails but is reunited with sanity the next day, while singing the praises of the institution that he/she is involved with. A tawdry, positively biased AA film. Avoid at all costs!
I had wanted to see this when it came out, but it was playing, I think, in one theater in NYC, for a week, and then it was gone. I am a tremendous fan of most of the actors in this film. I finally got to rent it this week, more than 5 years after it was released. The film is ok, the actors are very good. It isn't preachy at all, but it's still got some problems. Each actor gets to say about a sentence before the camera moves on to the next character. We learn nothing about anyone except for Louis' character, and his plot and personality aren't interesting enough to hold viewers' attentions for 90 minutes. What bothers me most is that there was no point to the film: They meet at an AA meeting, talk about their lives, realize it's tough to kick the habit. I just wish it had been more complex. And the great ensemble cast hardly gets to interact with one another. But, on the plus side, this is your once in a lifetime chance to see these actors in the same film.