28 September 2009

Days of Wine and Roses (4/5)

I haven't seen my generation's contribution to the cinema of alcoholism (e.g. Leaving Las Vegas) but have seen Trainspotting and Requiem for a Dream and would put Days of Wine and Roses in a similar class. One odd difference is that from the start of Days, we get more of a sense of grim, self-loathing from the leads. The manic beauty and potential in the primary characters of the two modern films were absent in Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick. In fact Jack Lemmon's outwardly directed self-hatred is revealed in the first few minutes. My memories of Trainspotting are not as fresh as those of Requiem, yet I found nothing in the early part of Lemmon and Remick's romance to match Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly's beautiful and hopeful rooftop scene. Jack Lemmon's character was constantly complaining and any success in their careers or marriage was tainted by a subtle menace in the dialog. There were no Halcyon days.

Minor differences aside, the three films are similar in how much they feel like watching a slow motion train wreck. Without too heavy a hand, Blake Edwards paces the unique downfall of the two leads skillfully enough to merit the nearly two hours of screen time. Both actors were outstanding in their most shrill and exhausting scenes, yet it was the more quiet scenes that delivered: Lee Remick in a stupor, absently mumbling what seemed like a full page of uninterpretable dialog to her young daughter as she tucked her into bed.

I felt the scenes of Jack Lemmon in straight-jacket dementia were a little much, and I don't watch Mad Men yet oddly had it in my mind the entire movie. Definitely have some slapstick comedy at the ready to cheer you up afterwards. I don't think you'll want a drink.

[ posted by sstrader on 28 September 2009 at 10:25:25 PM in Cinema ]