Well that’s what I thought going into this movie seeing the lead star and other promotion for this.
Bullock is Gwen, a party animal who has a party boyfriend who spend all nights club hopping and fitting as many Manhattan Ice teas and pills in their gobs as they can. Boozing it up one night and waking up the next morning for her older sister’s wedding Gwen arrives only to ruin the after party by destroying the cake and driving off in the limo in her underwear while trying to find a cake store and then, doing what Billy Joel would make fashionable about 5 years later, runs the car into the front of someone’s house. Gwen, rather then face jail time opts for rehab but finds it like a cheery hell with other druggies and sick people like her. Things are tough at first since her booze and painkiller diet isn’t too popular but slowly and steadily she works her way through it. We don’t see much in the way of surprises from how the story works out, but it's when those events happen we feel something but there is some joy here for such heady material.
I must stress this and why it’s a big issue. If you watch the trailer for this, see the movie cover, and realize Bullock is the lead then it’s really hard not to think of this as a comedy movie since it DOES try to make jokes with it’s subject matter. If there was no comic relief then the movie would just be too depressing.
This movie just has an odd feeling about it. Too many times it’s trying to be airy and light and other times it’s being too straight and it’s mood whiplash. You go from in one of the opening rehab scenes of people trying to come together with group singing and hugging and having they’re own cliqs and activities into seeing Gwen and her recovering heroin addict roommate who has a chocolate fixation and seeing Gwen throwing up and dimly recalling the bad habits instilled upon her by her wasted mom which are actually very sad. The scenes that are supposed to be funny are light enough to know it’s not meant to be dramatic but then the transitions into the drama come too hard and fast. Maybe director Betty Thomas wanted this in that the cold hard reality when you awake from a stupor will hit you like a bucket of cold water and from dyeing scenes in shadows and overcast skies for rehab and even having some jarring disorientation during the opening credits it’s not as though Thomas wasn’t trying to create mood.
Some moments stuck like seeing Bullock crashing into the cake by recklessly dancing with her boyfriend. After the crash, the only one laughing is the boyfriend and everyone else is silent, without even a shocked exclamation from anyone and it’s one of those uncomfortable silences that if you’ve ever been with family members for you know they aren’t funny. Another is how fast and furious the credits are that have Bullock trying to get ready for the wedding and racing in a taxi while drinking more in the back. Can’t you get arrested for that? Does this woman really care about anyone? Her sister brings this up early on as to how hard it is to put up with her and Gwen feels a pang, but finds some pills to kill it with about 4 seconds later.
I like that Bullock got to stretch a little bit here and play such a down and out character who comes to the realization that she does need some help. The assortment of other inmates are on hand to be her support and have their own little tics and quirks that help the movie along. This isn’t a bad movie but I came in thinking it would be funny and was stunned by what I saw, and how much of it wasn’t played for laughs. It did help keep me away from a lot of lame movies out there that I would be tempted to watch and watch when I know they’re bad. Kinda like drugs.
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