Seriocomic Look at Substance Abuse
Release Date: April 14, 2000
Audience: Older teenagers & adults
Runtime: 103 minutes
Distributor: Columbia/Tristar GENRE: Comedy/Drama
Producer: Jenno Topping
Writer: Susannah Grant
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John Calley, CEO
Sony Pictures Entertainment
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A successful writer, Gwen and her boyfriend Jasper (played by Dominic West of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM) live life in the fast lane, partying and drinking beyond the weekends. One day, after arriving to her sister’s wedding drunk, she carries things over the edge, ruining everything from the toast to the wedding cake. In a drunken stupor, she steals the newlywed’s limousine in search of a replacement cake, ultimately crashing into the front of a house. She is later sentenced to serve 28 days in rehabilitation, where there are no cell phones and plenty of rules.
Gwen rebels, despising the “Romper Room” chanting of the support groups and the singing of “Lean on Me” whenever a person is through with the program. Seeking help, she calls Jasper, who slips her some Vicodin pills and takes her away in his car for the day. Having broken the rules, Gwen’s counselor Cornell (Steve Buscemi of ARMAGEDDON) reminds her that her sentence was 28 days of rehabilitation or jail. Not taking him seriously at first, Gwen quickly shapes up when Cornell calls the jail. Now forced to be involved with the program, Gwen buys enormous amounts of candy in order to sustain her cravings brought on by addiction, a trick she learned from her 17-year-old roommate, Andrea (played by Azura Skye of TV’s ZOE). Having been in rehab more than once, Andrea knows the stages Gwen is experiencing. One night, when the others are at a meeting, Gwen dumps her smuggled pills out of her bedroom window. Later, she begins having flashbacks to her childhood, remembering her mother’s drunkenness and the severity of the situation. Feeling desperate, she climbs out of her window to retrieve the pills two stories below and falls down.
With this harsh reality check, Gwen sees her problem for the first time, and tells her counselor she wants to stay in the program. At first, the others in her support group treat her harshly for rebelling against them and the program, but soon they become more supportive. As Gwen changes, however, Jasper remains the same party-minded guy. With every visit of his, she sees clearly that he is not good for her and struggles with his continued involvement when he proposes to her. Wanting to change, she must also deal with her sister, who does not forgive Gwen for what she did in the past. For the first time, Gwen realizes that she wants a life, not a sequence of shallow, supposedly “fun” experiences. With a humorous and sometimes sorrowful journey, Gwen learns the importance of asking for help and committing to change.
With a deeper depiction than the 1989 picture THE DREAM TEAM, 28 DAYS explores the trauma, loss and severity of substance abuse while remaining humorous in the right areas. Bullock takes on a role with less glamour than other movies she has done, including WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING, HOPE FLOATS and FORCES OF NATURE. Nevertheless, she delivers an emotional portrayal of an addict, with the added bonus of the charm she usually brings to most of her characters. Hollywood often illustrates the subject of addiction with unusually quick recoveries or sheer humor with no realistic implications. This is not the case with 28 DAYS, though there are many amusing scenes, some of which are off-color or risqué. At various points, characters also show a relinquishing of their strength to God by praying the Serenity Prayer, referring to a “Higher Power,” while looking up to the sky asking for help. Even a counselor says, “God does not dump more on us than we can handle.” Despite these elements, however, 28 DAYS is spoiled with scenes of sexual promiscuity, partial nudity and foul language.
Unlike most Hollywood movies, 28 DAYS is a realistic look at addiction, in spite of many amusing scenes, some of which are off-color or risqué. Containing several obscenities, profanities, lewd references, sexual situations, partial nudity, and other disturbing content, this dramatic comedy nevertheless takes a serious, moral worldview about the issue of substance abuse and its consequences. At various points, characters even show a relinquishing of their strength to God by praying the Serenity Prayer.