Saturday, January 24, 2015

Review: Clean and Sober (1988)

In his very first dramatic film role Michael Keaton plays a Philadelphia real estate agent named Daryl Poynter. He's successful but self-destructive and hopelessly addicted to cocaine. After waking up one morning to a young woman who suffered a heart attack from an obvious drug overdose and receiving a frantic phone call from a work colleague in relation to large sum of the company's money that has gone missing. Daryl makes a desperate decision to check himself into a month long drug rehabilitation program to hide from the police and his employer as the program grantees anonymity. As previous attempt hide out have failed. However it isn’t long before Daryl realises that he is exactly where he needs to be.

Ron Howard who directed Keaton in Night Shift (1982) and Gung Ho (1986) serves as a co-producer in this strikingly realistic portrayal of addition. It's fundamentally a character piece, centred on an individual who's life is in absolute tatters. Keaton is nothing short of excellent in his performance as Daryl. The sense of arrogance he brings to the role really adds to the complexity of his character. On the surface Daryl is not the least bit likeable but behind the facade of smooth talk, charm and persistent denial you can see a man who very much wants and needs help. The film greatly benefits from a strong performing cast. Most notably Morgan Freeman as a tough but supportive drug counsellor who is used to explore the psychology behind addition; a key aspect of the film I really enjoyed and found to be very fascinating. I must note the very unglamorous visual style of this film which works to great effect. The low lighting, bland use of colours and the very drab setting of the rehab clinic further enhances the sense of despair, isolation and sadness. There are plenty of films about personal triumph over addition but 'Clean and Sober' stands out amongst the rest within the popular sub-genre. As Michael Keaton is well and truly back at the top of his game with the highly successful and critically acclaimed 'Birdman', which I'm very keen to see. Take a look back at some of his previous dramatic work, starting with this one right here. You'll be pleasantly surprised.

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