Tuesday, 7 January 2014

The Lost Weekend

Handsome, up-and-coming writer Don Birnam is being taken away for the weekend, but at the last minute, manages to dodge his attentive girlfriend and long-suffering brother.  The people who care about him out of the way, The Lost Weekend belongs to Don's true love: alcohol.

With a screenplay adapted from Charles R. Jackson's semi-autobiographical novel and Billy Wilder directing, The Lost Weekend became a smash hit, despite its formerly taboo subject - and it has stood the test of time remarkably well.

The success is in large part due to the film's uncompromising take on an alcoholic's behaviour.  Brilliantly portrayed by Ray Milland in an Oscar-winning performance, Don is a man broken by his desire for liquor and willing to go to any lengths for a drink - yet his descent into cunning manipulation, petty thievery and thuggery never becomes silly or mawkish, and the use of stylised monologues and flashbacks to allow the audience access to his thoughts is clever, without being melodramatic.

Barely striking a false note, (the exception perhaps being the film's slightly suspect but understandable conclusion,) The Lost Weekend was something quite different for Wilder, but as the Best Director, Actor, Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture Oscars attested, it was exceedingly well done.

For crazed, comedic, and darkly melancholic take on addiction, look no further than cult 80's film Withnail & I.  Withnail and his roommate are actors struggling for recognition, living in a scuzzy flat and abusing any substance that comes their way.  Featuring an utterly electrifying performance from Richard E. Grant as the self-destructive Withnail.

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