Film Review: 28 Days (2000)


(SPECIAL NOTE: Capsule version of the review is available here.)

Various critics can attack the same film for completely opposite reasons. An example can be found in 28 Days, 2000 film directed by Betty Thomas. Some criticised producers for suggesting light-hearted romantic comedy in trailers only to deliver dark and depressive drama as final product, while other accused producers of trying to sugarcoat very serious and important subject.

The protagonist is Gwen Cummings (played by Sandra Bullock), New York newspaper columnist who appears to enjoy a good life that involves boyfriend Jasper (played by Dominic West), nights in dance and other clubs, wild parties and huge amounts of alcohol. The latter causes the wedding of Gwen’s sister Lily (played by Elizabeth Perkins) to end in disaster. Gwen makes another mistake by driving under influence and ramming her car into someone’s house. Nobody got hurt, but Gwen is brought to court and given a choice – either to spend a month in jail or 28 days in rehab. Gwen unsurprisingly opts for the later. There she clearly states that she doesn’t considers herself to be an alcoholic and that would not change her lifestyle once she gets out. But Cornell Shaw (played by Steve Buscemi), experienced counsellor and former addict, gradually guides her to face her problem. In the meantime, Gwen meets diverse set of patients which includes Eddie Boone (played by Viggo Mortensen), baseball player to whom she gets attracted.

Both sets of critics were right, and this can be explained with 28 Days being based on somewhat schizophrenic script by Susannah Grant, which apparently couldn’t make a mind whether to stick to fairytale Hollywood treatment of addiction or deal with the subject with more seriousness and darker overtones. This confusion creates a void which is filled with cliches and stereotypical characters, which include gay character played by at times very irritating Alan Tudyk. Direction of Betty Thomas is of little help, because she at times desperately tries to shoot scenes from “strange” angles simply in order to make her film look different than standard Hollywood romantic comedy. What makes this film watchable is very good cast. Sandra Bullock apparently took rather dark role and character which might not always be likeable in order to show broader range than those displayed in romantic comedies that were basis of her stardom. The most interesting performance is given by Steve Buscemi, who plays character which in some ways represents variation of the role played in Trees Lounge. Another interesting detail in the film, which had potential, is Santa Cruz, fictional soap opera which is favourite past time of teenage heroin addict played by Azura Skye; its scenes show much more creativity and provide more humour than “regular” plot, but they last too little to generally improve impression of this film.

RATING: 4/10 (+)

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