Saturday, March 9, 2013

[Review] Days of Wine and Roses

In this harrowing drama Jack Lemmon plays Public Relations man Joe Clay. He’s a nice guy, people like him and he’s good at his job, which often involves entertaining his various high profile clients by arranging lavish parties, supplying the girls and booze. Joe feels a little uncomfortable about this part of the job but carries on despite his feelings, often getting drunk in the process at the many parties he’s forced to attend.

He meets a young secretary named Kristen who he becomes instantly infatuated with. They start seeing each other regularly and Joe introduces her to social drinking in the form of a Brandy Alexander which he knows will appeal to Kristen’s confessed obsessive love for chocolate. She enjoys it very much and later admits that having a drink made her feel good, much to Joe’s delight.

They soon fall in love, get married and have a child. But this point Joe has become increasingly frustrated with his job and his excessive drinking as resulted in a demotion. Not wanting to drink alone when he arrives home from work each night, Kristen eventually succumbs to the pressure of alcoholism. 

This film is an absolute staple in that great genre of drama and one of the most emotional and intelligent portrayals of alcoholism I’ve seen on film. It’s so heart breaking to watch Joe and Kristen sink deeper and deeper into the abyss of addiction. They’re such strong characters with wonderful chemistry and that first act of the film is so nice yet I there is that unsettling feeling of knowing that it’s not going to last.

I really liked how the film explores the psychology behind addiction, not just to alcohol but in general. Like where does addiction come from? Is it hereditary? Or are just some people wired a little differently? One part of in particular really struck a cord with me; in a brief scene where Joe’s AA sponsor points out that Kristen’s love for chocolate could have be considered as a sign on an addictive personality, basically a potential alcoholic. Now I don’t drink, I’ve never really had the desire to. But like the character of Kristen I too have an intense love for chocolate and just thinking about my various habits, such as my compulsive need to collect things, mainly DVDs and when ever I discover a something new that I really like I often over indulge.  So what I’m saying is that deep down I’ve always felt that if I did chose to drink and turned out to really enjoyed it I could easily see myself developing a problem.  And one of the strong points that the film makes very well is that Joe and Kristen’s love for each other is mainly based on their love of alcohol as they spend the majority of their time together intoxicated.

Now if you’re a fan of Jack Lemmon much as I am this film is an absolute must see. In recent months I’ve really been making an effort to see more of his dramatic work and this would be his best performance next to Save the Tiger in which he won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1973.  His performance as Joe is just as powerhouse; he really captures that despair of someone who has reached rock bottom and without giving too much away his withdrawal scenes are brutally realistic, also quite frightening. Lee Remick is excellent as Kristen; she was such a beautiful looking actress back in those days and her piercing eyes are spellbounding. Supporting performances include Charles Bickford as Kristen’s father and Jack Klugman as Joe’s AA sponsor who are both fantastic.

I went into Days of Wine and Roses expecting a fairly sugar coated approach to portraying alcoholism given the film’s age but I found it to be as powerful and even more so than some of the many modern films that tackle the subject. If you can get your hands on a copy of this fine film I doubt you'll be disappointed.


By Kevin Bechaz

The Facts

Director: Blake Edwards
Writer(s): J.P. Miller
Starring: Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick, Charles Bickford, Jack Klugman
Runtime: 117 minutes
Release Date(s): USA: December 26, 1962

1 comment:

  1. A correction" Lee Remick's character in this film is named KIRSTEN, not Kristen.