28 Days (2000)
Directed by Betty Thomas
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Dominic West, Viggo Mortensen, Elizabeth Perkins, Azura Skye, Alan Tudyk, Diane Ladd, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Steve Buscemi, Michael O'Malley, Margo Martindale, Reni Santoni.
2000 104 minutes
Rated: (for profanity and adult themes).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, April 15, 2000.
"28 Days" would like to be an honest portrayal of a person attempting to rehabilitate from an alcoholic pill-popper to someone who is able to live a normal life, but it simply isn't. With themes similar to that of 1988's "Clean and Sober" and 1994's "When a Man Loves a Woman" (with a remarkable performance by Meg Ryan), "28 Days" is the black sheep of the trio--a sketchy and predictable dramedy with little insight or intelligence, and a story outline that is merely skin-deep. Welcome to planet Hollywood!
For the past fifteen years, Gwen Cummings (Sandra Bullock) has lived her life in the fast lane, speeding along from one drink and pill, from one party and bedroom romp, to the next, without any clear destination as to where her life is headed. After yet another round of late-night partying, Gwen awakens with her equally troubled boyfriend Jasper (Dominic West) only to realize that it is the wedding day of her older sister (Elizabeth Perkins), and she is already late. Making a scene at the reception (where she arrives drunk), Gwen accidentally falls into the wedding cake and, following a car accident in which she drives into a home while trying to find a cake store, is immediately sent to Serenity Glen Rehab Center, where she is to serve 28 days.
At first, Gwen refuses to admit she even has a problem, and finds it difficult to believe she is like her fellow drug patients, including her teenaged, heroin-and-soap-opera-addicted roommate, Andrea (Azura Skye); a divorced mother (Marianne Jean-Baptiste); and a light-hearted gay dancer (Alan Tudyk). But the more difficulty she has sustaining an abruptly sober life, and the more she flashes back to her childhood when she was living with her now-deceased alcoholic mother, Gwen realizes the discouraging footsteps in which she has followed thus far in her adult life. It's time to set things straight, for once, she believes, and that includes getting off drugs, mending her rocky relationship with her sister, and dealing maturely with her boyfriend, whom she cares about but knows is not the best influence for her.
Written by Susannah Grant, the mastermind also behind this season's biggest hit, "Erin Brockovich," "28 Days" is a sloppily made motion picture with nary the depth nor the realism to be a truly powerful or even memorable experience. Quickly moving from one scene to the next, none of the supporting characters are given the space or time to break free of their one-note, stereotypical roles, while the workings of the plot fail to overcome its cliches.
Meanwhile, Sandra Bullock remains in the forefront from the first scene to the last, and she is her usual good self, but in a decidedly less glamorous role this time, respectively. Bullock injects the flawed Gwen as a likable character, even when she is being reckless, since we realize that she is a woman with a great deal of problems, both exterior and interior, that decisively need to be worked out.
Surrounding Bullock are a parade of stock characters, with only Elizabeth Perkins, as Bullock's fed-up sister, and Azura Skye, as Bullock's troubled roommate, particularly standing out in effective performances that are given more than a few fleeting moments of screen time. Late in the picture, hints of a romance are brought up involving Gwen and a new patient, the ruggedly handsome alcoholic baseball player Eddie (Viggo Mortensen), but there is little chemistry between the two, and even less interest in them within Grant's oversimplified screenplay, which basically disregards the subplot before the silly conclusion.
"28 Days" may be a so-called "feel-good" comedy-drama, but it is rarely funny, and its emotions, which thankfully never go overboard in the schmaltz department, nevertheless neglect to exude much tangible feeling. Alcoholism and drug abuse are serious diseases that are never solved or overcame; instead, they are life-long battles that rely on willpower and the amount of desire a person has to stay clean. The recovery process, as delineated here, is a relatively easy and sugarcoated one, at a loss for any signs of authenticity. The final minutes of "28 Days" particularly fail to do this idea legitimate justice, as we are led to believe Gwen has, once and for all, gotten her priorities in order, and will never go back to drinking. Maybe she will, and maybe she won't; who knows? Sigh...if only the big L (as in L-I-F-E) was really so simple.
©2000 by Dustin Putman