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28 DAYS

Review by Andrew Manning (4/00)

Release: 2000, Sony
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Dominic West, Elizabeth Perkins, Steve Buscemi, Mike O'Malley, Reni Santoni, Alan Tudyk, Viggo Mortensen, Azura Skye
Director: Betty Thomas
MPAA Rating: [PG-13] language, sexuality
Genre: Drama/Comedy




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SUMMARY

Gwen Cummings (Bullock), a chronic substance abuser, is the life of the party. But when her stoned and drunken antics ruin her sister's wedding and cause her to crash a car into a house, she lands herself in a rehab facility. There, she begins to recognize her problems, and tries to finally get her life back in order.

THE SUDDEN RUNDOWN

Not entirely original, but Bullock is charming and the supporting ensemble cast is solid in this rehab drama.

WHAT'S GOOD

Bullock convincingly plays both sides of the coin in this movie, first portraying Gwen as a flaky, irresponsible party girl in blissful denial, then later as an intelligent young woman who is beginning to realize she needs to get her act together. Several elements converge at the right moment to shock her into reality when she checks into the rehab clinic: her counselor confronts her with her addictions; she finds herself pathetically groveling for a bottle of pills; the rehab program inflicts a regiment of tough love on her; and the desperate situation of her young, suicidal roommate gets to her.

If anything, this movie is worth seeing just to witness Steve Buscemi break stereotype. For once, he's cast as something besides the freaky, weaseley little rat bastard he's been known for in Armageddon, Fargo, and other films. Here, he's "Camp Counselor Cornell," the guy who dedicates himself to turning people around because he's already walked a mile in their shoes.

The supporting cast is, of course, filled with stereotypical characters that round out the overall personality of the group: there's the insufferable asshole (Reni Santoni, "Poppy" on Seinfeld); the depressed chick who's trying to pretend everything's all right (the aforementioned suicidal roommate, played by Azura Skye, Jane of WB's re-titled Zoe...); the jokester (Mike O'Malley, who had a show on NBC for about a day); a gay German guy who gets all the funny lines (imagine a nice-guy version of Mike Myers' Sprockets character); and of course, a Marlboro-type baseball player trying to kick the habit, thrown into the mix so we can have a token romantic interest for Bullock.

Outside the rehab group, Gwen has two major relationships: a tense, off-limits one with an estranged sister, and a default romance one with an English loser who epitomizes her problems. Both are well developed.

The relationship with her sister, played by Elizabeth Perkins, offers flashback narrative that shows us exactly what went wrong in Gwen's childhood. We see that their mother was a pathetic, lost soul herself, constantly strung out on one substance or another and neglectful of her two daughters, even when they were very young. Of course, this backdrop spawns two different types of girls: Gwen grows up to mimic her mother's self-destructive behavior, while older sister Lilly grows up to be the responsible, uptight one who resents Gwen's popularity born of doing all the wrong things.

The relationship with the English guy into the drug scene represents the major conflict. And since he visits Gwen while she is in rehab, we see Gwen's two worlds coming into contact and vying for control of her. It's a tug of war between the dead end lifestyle of drug abuse and the potential for clean living and self-fulfillment.

Though you might not be able to tell by this review so far, 28 Days has its fair share of humor. Sandra Bullock yelling, "I am having a bad day, so just back the f**k up off me!" is a funny thing to behold, and all the scenes with the German guy prove to be the comical highlights. Ultimately, though, the myriad of relationships examined and explored proves to be the greatest strength of this film.


WHAT'S BAD

Bullock's blossoming romance with the baseball player in rehab is easily the weakest link in the story. In fact, the movie was moving along quite nicely until he is introduced in the second half. Someone who is in a destructive relationship (i.e. Gwen and the English guy) needs to get out of it, to be sure, but the best solution isn't to jump into another one with someone who has the same problems. The last thing she needs to do is hook up with another druggie. As such, the introduction of the baseball player felt forced and contrived--a fantasy-world device that says a fairy tale romance is the quick fix for what ails ya. Just as you are celebrating Gwen's newfound independence and ability to stand on her own two feet, he is thrown into the mix as an afterthought, as if we need some sort of Cinderella crap stinking up this otherwise realistic character study of addiction.

While the performances are solid and the material will be familiar to most people who have found themselves trying to kick a particularly destructive habit, 28 Days isn't entirely original, and it's definitely not anything you haven't seen before on a television drama.


Rating: 5.5 out of 10 (0=Abysmal, 5=Average, 10=Excellent)
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