Runtime: 1 hr 43 min
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Betty Thomas
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Viggo Mortensen, Dominic West, Elizabeth Perkins, Alan Tudyk, Steve Buscemi
All she needs to do is "just say no."
Review by: SteveRhodes
Added: 8 years ago
In the comedic drama 28 DAYS, Sandra Bullock, as Gwen Cummings, has been sentenced by a judge to spend the next 28 days in rehab. After stealing the limo at her sister's wedding and crashing it into a house, the judge said it was rehab or jail. Normally the ultimate party girl, she is forced to live a life without booze or pills, which to her closely approximates hell on earth.
Director Betty Thomas (PRIVATE PARTS) and writer Susannah Grant (ERIN BROCKOVICH) have more affinity for the comedic part of the story, but it is the tragic that is the most effective. The comedic, which only works in fits and spurts, serves more often as a detriment to the movie than an attribute.
Another problem with the picture is that we've seen it before and better. Michael Keaton in CLEAN AND SOBER was funnier and more chillingly convincing. And the frighteningly effective performance by Meg Ryan in WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN put both movies shame.
We get a brief glimpse at the movie's start of how much fun Gwen has when wasted. Soon after that we witness her stampede through her sister's wedding like a drunken bull on a rampage. "Gwen, you make it impossible to love you," her sister, Lilly (Elizabeth Perkins), tells her in disgust at the wedding.
In flashbacks we learn that the two sisters had an alcoholic mother, with a demeanor much like Gwen's, whom they would shake violently to wake up when she passed out drunk. This conflict between the sisters is the most promising and most underdeveloped part of the storyline. Their relationship cries out to us. We want to know more, especially why Lilly turned out so apparently normal while Gwen is going down the same destructive path that their mother followed.
In an inspired bit of casting against type, Steve Buscemi plays Gwen's counselor. She blows off his guidance to her ("Remember God never gives us more than we can handle.") with a tart reply ("Is that available stitched on a pillow somewhere?"). His effect on her life appears as if it will be significant, but the movie only gives us a few cheap laughs before moving on.
Although interrupted periodically by genuine tragedy (puking in the toilet from drug withdrawal, attempted suicides, ugly relapses, etc.), the movie spends most of its time and energy in search of laughs. Alan Tudyk, for example, plays a gay German stripper with a funny accent. Most of the comedy troop seem lifted from some lame television sitcom.
Viggo Mortensen plays a cocaine-sniffing major league pitcher who isn't sure that he'll ever play again. His addiction for the soap opera "Santa Cruz" is shared by others in rehab. He is also addicted to women, which gets him in trouble with husbands. Needless to say, he forms an attachment of sorts to Gwen, much to the consternation of her boyfriend, Jasper (Dominic West). Jasper, representing the temptations of the devil, shows up at the clinic periodically to tempt and test Gwen with offers of drugs and freedom.
Sometimes the movie successfully blends the comedic with the tragic. "Statistically, only 3 out of 10 make it, so it makes it better for us if he doesn't make it" one of the addicts says as another leaves to venture out into the cold world outside the clinic.
When is the scariest and most important time for someone trying to kick the habit? After they leave rehab. After choosing to show that time for Gwen, the filmmakers made it seem way too easy for her. All she needs to do is "just say no." As simple as that.
28 DAYS runs 1:43. It is rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving substance abuse, language and some sensuality and would be acceptable for teenagers.