Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Lost Weekend (1945)

Today's film is The Lost Weekend.  It's about the struggles of an alcoholic.  This film is one of the first to use such a serious subject, and it issued in a new era of drama.
Not a bad guy
Don Birnam is a "writer" who cannot go ten minutes without a drink.  Supposedly he has gone without since his last binge, although I doubt it based on his numerous clever hiding places for his bottles. Don and his brother, Wick, are packing up to go to the country for the weekend. Don's ladyfriend, Helen, comes to visit, and he convinces his brother to go with her to a concert while he packs. Wick finds a hidden bottle and is about 500% done with his shit.  Eventually Wick just goes to the country trip himself and leaves Don to his own devices.  Don proceeds to steal, beg, and pawn whatever to get the alcohol he needs.  
Don was superbly acted by Ray Milland.  Even though he was stealing things in order to get alcohol, I was always sympathetic to him.  Like Helen said, he isn't a bad person, he's a sick person.  He has no money for drinks, so he steals out of desperation.  Mitch Hedberg once said, "Alcoholism is a disease, but it's the only disease you can get yelled at for having".
Don needs to find a job.

Helen asks him since he can't find work as a writer, why not get a real job? 

 Don doesn't want a real job, he wants the prestige of being a writer.  There is something lofty and romantic about being a writer that other professions don't have.  But Don hasn't written anything good since college.  And have you ever read college student-run newspapers or magazines? They suck.  I'm sure Don isn't as good of a writer as he thinks.  Still, he hasn't contributed anything since college and is living off his brother's charity.  His brother was right to cut off all expenses, because addiction takes two people, the addict and the co-dependent.  By cutting off the flow of money, Don has no choice but to get help or wind up in jail or worse.
Alcohol Withdrawal is serious business.

This part is actually true.  For someone who is dependent on alcohol, quitting cold turkey will cause withdrawal symptoms and can be dangerous.  It is best if he detoxes under medical supervision, either in outpatient care or a rehab facility.  Don does wake up in a half drunk tank/half mental hospital for alcoholics but escapes because he is freaked out by the other patient's delusions. He doesn't want to end up like them, but can't quit drinking, either.  In the end, he uses his passion for writing to help keep away from drinking.  I don't know how long that will last, though.  What happens when he gets frustrated or has writer's block?  He still has a long way to go.  I will give this film an 8/10.


  1. Good review of an excellent movie and, yes, groundbreaking. The end was a miss though. There is no real solution there. If he has been so good at fooling himself up to this point what is to stop him next time the urge gets to him?

    1. I think it shows that his addiction is a chronic problem he has to spend the rest of his life dealing with. Which is a bummer, but at least he's starting in the right direction.

  2. The scene where he tries to pawn his typewriter is a killer.

    I love the show Archer. Did you pick that gif because you like it, too, or did you just happen to run across it and don't watch the show?

    1. Archer is one of my favorite shows! The movie reminded me of that episode so I went back to look for gifs. "You mean there's such a thing as too drunk?"