Friday, November 25, 2011

I Said No, No, No

As a Netflix subscriber, I am quite diligent and thoughtful when it comes to rating the movies or TV shows I've viewed. Like many, Netflix has sort of turned the once leisurely activity of watching entertainment into a task bordering on a chore and I often find myself putting in extra effort to consume enough media to get the best of my monthly subscriber fee (this is especially the case with unwatched mail-in DVDs which just sit on the counter as a conspicuous red faced reminder of my laziness). So when I get through a title, I find it to be a triumphant ritual to give my immediate one to five star impression of it. Additionally, constant feedback is what allows the cutting edge Netflix personal recommendation algorithm to continue to give me astoundingly accurate and spot on suggestions.

As far as my grading tendencies go, I'm a relatively soft grader. The way I see it, the fact that I had enough interest in the TV series or movie to select it to watch should give it at least a presumptive 3 star rating. In the end it all sort of works out to a curve with the great majority of titles residing in the 3 to 4 star, ok to good, territory. It takes an exceptional film to get a 5 and it takes a pretty lousy piece of cinema to get a 2 (1 star is exclusively reserved for my all time, truly terrible, eighth circle of hell, films of which there are only currently eight; I may cover these in another post but to give you an idea one of them is "Nothing But Trouble"). Since an exceptional 5 film or a poor 2 film are both equally rare, it's always a notable occasion when I run across one.

Unfortunately, this time around the latest outlier was a 2 rating for the 2000 Sandra Bullock dramedy (although it really fails on both levels) "28 Days". I had the absolute lowest of expectations going into this movie since I just needed something to watching while trying to get to sleep, yet it somehow failed to even live up to these low stakes. Actually, if the film was even duller and it instantly put me to sleep, I may have given it the gentleman's 3 for getting some beneficial reaction out of me. In the end though, the film turned out to be so muddled in its content and middling its delivery that it failed to entertain even as a failure (which is truly the worst kind of failure).

The brief as possible summary is as follows: Sandra Bullock is an alcoholic along with her jerky enabler boyfriend (Dominic West in actual English accent mode); she gets drunk at her sister's wedding and ruins the whole affair (although the ridiculousness of her actions and the damage she causes makes it look like alcohol causes her to go temporarily insane); which gets her sentenced to a rehab retreat populated by a bunch of "quirky" addicts including Mike O'Malley (playing the same cap wearing laid back dude roll he has played in everything), Viggio Mortenson (as the possible love interest), the guy who played Poppy from "Seinfeld", and some vulnerable looking teenage girl who I immediately (and correctly) predicted would die later on to lend the story some tragedy; after some initial friction Sandra comes to grips with her problem, makes friends, makes amends with her sister, leaves rehab and her boyfriend, and looks ahead to a clean and sober future.

The main problem with the film is that it is indecisive on whether it's going to be a black comedy or gritty drama about addiction and fails at being both. You know the old joke about "28 Days" being the prequel to the zombie horror film "28 Days Later"? That is funnier than any of this film's attempts at humor. O'Malley is supposed to be the sarcastic comic relief but he's had better material in his cable commercials. There's another resident, Gerhardt, whose fey eurotrash German-ness is apparently supposed to be inherently funny. Once again the indecisiveness of the filmmakers when assembling the supporting cast of residents sinks the film. They apparently didn't want everyone to be one joke caricatures but they also didn't want everyone to be complex, grimly realistic depictions of addicts so they found this bland medium of lame partially formed characters that the audience isn't really compelled to care about. As for the drama, every time things start to get serious or we start to learn about the sad history of a resident, the film tries to be light and immediately reels back. As for Sandra's character there are all these flashbacks and implications of a traumatic childhood for her and her sister involving their alcoholic mother and her untimely death, but it gets resolved so quickly after one quick heart to heart chat between the sisters towards the end that you wonder why they never got around to this prior.

In addition, the film also doesn't seem to know what to do with Viggio Mortenson's character. Even though he's probably the most fully realized supporting character and has one of the more interesting back stories in the film, he's a famous baseball pitcher currently in rehab, they never really go into it all that deeply nor do they show him making progress with his addictions at the clinic. From the outset you think she's going to fall for him when he makes his first appearance in the film by heroically carrying her into the rehab center after she nearly kills herself trying to escape through her window. There is obvious tension between them throughout and they do have an awkward kiss and he has a confrontation with the boyfriend but then he sort of disappears for a while down the final stretch. Even all the way at the end when she's leaving the facility and he chases her car down to have a big final confrontation with her, they make their peace but it doesn't end with them falling in love. She just goes back to her life, decides to leave her boyfriend, and that's how it ends. I guess it's commendable that the filmmakers were trying not to go with the cliche ending but the alternative seemed incomplete.

Oh, and I also forgot Steve Buscemi is also in the film as Sandra Bullock's counselor. As you can tell, his character was just as forgettable as most of the others.

Put it all together and you have the makings of a ultimately forgettable 100 minutes and a textbook example of how to become a 2 star film in my account; neither memorably awesome or memorably awful. There's a reason you probably haven't thought about the film since around 2001 and that this review is probably the detailed discussion of the film since then.


  1. OK, but can we agree that the scene at the end with Gerhardt, the dog, and plant was hilarious?

  2. It was at least a good point to end.

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