28 Days

The problem with Hollywood is that it views the world in black and white. This is okay, when the issues being dealt with involve the two sides of the force in Star Wars, but is insulting when the issue being addressed is substance abuse, as in 28 Days.

28 Days is Sandra Bullock's chance to reclaim her declining fame. Even though she's a great actress and extremely attractive, her last few roles have left a bit to be desired. Fortunately, while 28 Days isn't the greatest choice of movies she could've picked, it does serve as an excellent vehicle to showcase her abilities and she does a fine job.

In the film, Gwen Cummings (Bullock) is a party animal, constantly high on either alcohol or some form of barbiturates. Her partner in crime is Jasper (Dominic West) who holds the view that the meaning of life is to minimise the pain that it is full of. It is this view that dictates their lifestyle.

Gwen is forced to confront her excesses when she gets smashed at her sister's wedding and, not content with just being obnoxious and ruining the wedding cake, she steals the bridal limousine and runs into a house. Her punishment involves spending 28 days at a rehabilitation clinic where the clients (who are a motley crew, to be sure) chant and hold hands in a desperate attempt to overcome their problems.

At first, Gwen doesn't believe she has a problem, acts if she is above the others, and is consequently an unwelcome visitor. In the real world, a person like her would not only be subject to a more strenuous punishment by the justice system, but said person would never fit in such a clinic. But this is Hollywood and slowly Gwen realises her folly and wins the love and admiration of her fellow druggies.

The movie takes the easy way out by showing only the excesses of indulging in "mainstream" drugs, not showing any serious ramifications of Gwen's actions, and trivialising how drug abuse can be overcome. The movie is schizophrenic, partly being a romantic story, partly being social commentary about drug abuse, and partly satirising clinics where new age behaviour is the norm. To top it all, there's too much focus on a TV soap opera that really has no connection with the basic story.

The film tries to link the behaviour of Gwen to the abuse she suffered as a child. I say "abuse" because her mother who believed life was about "fun" raised the children in the same excesses that Gwen finds herself in. However, that is no excuse for anyone's behaviour and while Gwen's older sister manages to pull herself out of that rut, Gwen herself is not able to. This leads to a poignant scene towards the end where the sisters who've had tensions between them finally reconcile. This is the sole redeeming feature of the film.

Bullock carries the movie well, and this film is definitely worth watching if you like her work, provided you can excuse the trivialising of important social issues (which in and of itself isn't a bad thing, but 28 Days isn't attempting to be a satire).

Movie ram-blings || Ram Samudrala || me@ram.org