Monday, September 7, 2009

Days of Wine and Roses (1962)

Danish film poster (transl. "Hectic Days").

Director: Blake Edwards
USA 1962
117 min
Starring: Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick, Charles Bickford and Jack Klugman, among others.

See it on YouTube here.

Joe Clay (Lemmon) is a PR executive with a taste for bottled ethanol, who meets a pretty secretary, Kirsten (Remick, in what must be the best role of her career). After an unpleasant start, based on a misunderstanding from Joe's side, they eventually fall in love and get married. Kirsten, who at first never touches alcohol, is convinced by Joe that booze is the essence of life, and pretty soon their relationship is a ménage à trois with the whiskey bottle. (Do I use that expression too often? I happen to like it!)

After having a baby together, their relationship starts to depend more and more on huge amounts of alcohol, and one day (after having been fired from more than one job), Joe realizes that he has become a bum. Together, Joe and Kirsten tries to start a new, sober life together. They move in with her brusque father (Bickford) in the country and works hard. But it just seems a little too easy to have "just one more", and we get a frightening freakout scene with Lemmon desperately trying to find a hidden bottle in a greenhouse to top that off.

From this moment on the couple struggle to get up from the rock bottom, but someone is always wobbling and seem to bring the other one down too. Joe attends AA meetings, but Kirsten is too proud to admit that they have a problem.

This is an extremely painful film to see, and I will say the same thing as I said about mental illness and The Snake Pit [post] - those who will feel most for this film, are those who have seen alcoholism in close-up. They will immediately get uncomfortable at the classic excuses, the unworthy behaviour and helplessness that comes with it.

Jack Lemmon gives an incredible performance as Joe Clay - I was completely shocked. It was the first non-comedy film I ever saw him in, so you can imagine. It reminds me of when I saw Jim Carrey in The Truman Show (1998), not to mention Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004). The experience is almost surreal, and to see a comedian show his dramatic qualities makes you appreciate their comedy more - they've got something to back it up with.
I also need to highlight Charles Bickford as the grumpy but concerned father, and Jack Klugman as Joe's AA mentor. (You have probably seen Klugman before in 12 Angry Men, 1957, as "Juror #5".)

Trailer: Interesting trailer, including a special appearance by Jack Lemmon - waving a cigarette and telling us about how much he believes in this movie.

I surprisingly read a lot of complaints about the dramatization of alcoholism in Days of Wine and Roses, and that's where I go back to the "recognition argument" above. Some person answered one of the whining b*tches on the IMDb message board with the simple statement:
"You've obviously never hit rock bottom."
I couldn't have said it better.

Jack Lemmon was (rightfully so) nominated for an Oscar, and so was Lee Remick. They were however robbed by Gregory Peck for To Kill a Mocking Bird and Anne Bancroft in The Miracle Worker. But the competition was pretty rough, in this case. There was however Academy Award win, and that was for the title song "Days of Wine and Roses" by Henry Mancini (music) andJohnny Mercer (lyrics).

Interesting trivia: (I'm lazy, I'm quoting directly from IMDb!)

The cast and crew were very concerned that the bleak ending would be changed. Director Blake Edwards recalled for Entertainment Weekly magazine that studio head Jack L. Warner wanted a lighter ending, but he came into a screening with a very attractive date who blasted the decision. Warner reluctantly gave in. In addition, Jack Lemmon purposely flew to Paris after filming had wrapped so he would be "unavailable" for re-shoots.

I love when an actor concerns so much about his work, that he is willing to travel continents for it! After having watched this film I have gotten a deep respect for Jack Lemmon.

Jack Lemmon.

Lee Remick.


Amanda Cooper said...

Fantastic review! I am certainly going to watch this movie now!

Lolita said...

Amanda Cooper:
Thank you! The quality on YouTube is very good, so go ahead!

Christopher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christopher said...

Saw this several times on TV growing up..I'd like to see it again...The theme song brings back lots of memories,it was popular in its day..I remember as a kid hearing it lots around the house on a record my parents had..

Tom said...

Great post. I've seen this movie, but always thought it so depressing. :(