28 Days Is A True Gem
Have you seen 28 days? No, not 28 days later. 28 days. The movie starring Sandra Bullock and a bunch of other great people.
Why 28 days? Well because I feel that it deserves a lot more love and because it has one of the best portrayals of addiction ever. Namely alcoholism, the leading character’s disease but so many others as well. Where do I begin with 28 days?
28 days came out in theaters back in April 2000, to an abysmal critical reception, but a slightly better box office success. If you take a closer look at Sandra’s projects back then, you’ll notice that it’s one of many (and I do mean many) box office bombs she had at that period. It would take some months later (December to be exact) for Sandra to hit a jackpot with Miss Congeniality. But up until then, she had movie releases that either went unnoticed with the audience or were box office bombs. Like the underrated Gun Shy and a movie worthy of another video. Or the critically panned Forces of nature.
Sure Practical Magic is considered a cult movie today, but back then it didn’t break even and was poorly received with the critics as well. Even Roger Ebert said that the film “doesn’t seem sure what tone to adopt, veering uncertainly from horror to laughs to romance.”
However he did make a great observation (and a comparison if you will) with another great actress and another great movie:
„The movie was written by Susannah Grant, who also wrote Julia Roberts’ hit film “Erin Brockovich.” I differed with “Erin” for the same reason I like “28 Days”: the tone of the central character. I found that Roberts, enormously likable although she is, upstaged the material in “Erin Brockovich” by unwise costume choices and scenes that were too obviously intended as showcases. Bullock brings a kind of ground-level vulnerability to “28 Days” that doesn’t make her into a victim but simply into one more suitable case for treatment. Bullock, like Roberts, is likable, but in “28 Days” at least that’s not the point.“
Ebert awarded 28 Days two stars in his review, and I often wondered if he would be kinder to the movie if he was alive today. Gosh, I miss him and Gene Siskel too.
OK. Back to the topic at hand.
Before I dive into the impact that the movie had on me, I wanna touch on the revolutionary status 28 days had in the early 2000s. Because it was revolutionary. It was directed, written produces by a woman and it had a female lead as well. Sure, we think nothing of this today, but back then (in the early 2000s) it was practically unheard of.
Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of female producers, writers, and even directors in the ’90s and early 2000s.
Marry Harron’s American Pshycho came out in the same years as 28 days. Kimberly Pierce’s Boys Don’t Cry wowed the audience just a year prior. And Nancy Myers delivered the goods with What Women Want that same year too. But I don’t think that any other movie of that era has such female presence as 28 days did. Written by Susanah Grant, Produced by Jenno Topping and directed by Betty Thomas, 28 days was a trailblazer for so many aspiring female artists. And not only that. Very few movies before 28 days portrayed female alcoholics. Sure Meg Ryan shined in When A Man Loves A Woman some 6 years before. And if I go back any further I will find just handful examples.
Helen in Ironweed.
Wanda in Barfly.
Martha in Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Wolf.
Kirsten Clay in Days Of Wine and Roses. Yeah, those are the obvious picks.
But frankly, there aren’t that many to add here. Alcoholism was a male disease in Hollywood for so long, and frankly not that many things have changed in that department since.
But I would put Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Kate character in Smashed here as a good example of a female alcoholic after the release of 28 days.
And just what made the depiction of female addiction so real and relatable in 28 days? Well, as a woman who struggled with alcoholism I can tell you that it’s not a walk in the park, that’s for sure. I’ve never had any trouble with the law, I was never an embarrassment to my family because of it.
My decision to sober up wasn’t court-ordered. But pretty much everything else was the same. My sobriety was an act of sheer will and determination, but the process was the same. Whether you are in some fancy rehab facility or not. Everybody has to go through the same crap.
As Gwen (Sandra’s character in 28 days) would tell you, you have to have the will power to do it. Nobody will ever do it for you, and nobody will be able to make you sober. It will have to come from you and you alone. She put up a wall and resisted as much as she could, but thankfully she came to her senses.
And there’s the thing called withdrawal. It’s probably the most horrific and painful part of the entire sobriety process and the reason why so many addicts are reluctant to go through it. The shaking, the vomiting, the tremors, the hair-loss and so much more. Yup. Those things are going to happen (eventually) whether you like it or not, and 28 days doesn’t shy away from those scenes. They’re not overly graphic, but they’re pretty relatable, to be honest. They’re a nice reminder that sobriety is a long, and messy process.
To be quite frank I relate to Gwen on so many levels. I was reluctant to give the sobriety a try. I was surrounded by enablers who encouraged that kind of lifestyle. And much like Gwen I never asked for help. Asking for help is a sign of weakness I thought. I can handle it by myself I thought. Yeah, the booze had other plans.
But as I mentioned earlier, 28 days is filled with plenty of great colorful characters. Not just Gwen. There’s the heroin addict Andrea, the hypersexual cocaine addict Oliver, the fellow alcoholic’s Daniel and Roshanda, and of course, there’s Gerhart (played by Alan Tudyk). His addiction is not specified in the movie, but he’s one of the best characters in 28 days. He’s hilarious. Steve Buscemi also has a supporting role as Cornell- a recovered addict who now works as a counselor at the rehab. And last by not least, there’s Viggo Mortensen’s Eddie character. Mortensen plays a famous baseball player that’s addicted to pretty much everything. Booze, drugs, sex you name it.
If I’m being honest, I have a bone to pick with the decision to focus on Gwen’s character a lot more than on the others in the rehab facility. They’re not developed and explored more. And I wanted more of their backstories, their journeys and their personalities in this movie. Some of the patient’s backstories are told through exposition, while others are omitted entirely.
But do you know what is not omitted in 28 days? The looming threat of death that comes with addiction. Andrea’s death is a somber reminder that addiction will eventually kill you if you don’t stop abusing whatever it is that you’re abusing. Drugs, alcohol whatever. You will eventually die, and 28 days is no sugarcoating that.
On the other hand, what 28 days does have is one of the best Sandra Bullock’s performances ever. She’s really good here, and it’s quite a shame that her acting isn’t being given much credit here. Yeah, everyone remembers Miss Congeniality, but 28 days deserves a lot more love too.
I Loved 28 days. In a very odd way, the movie made me look at my addiction in a very different way.
I used to dismiss and downplay my addiction as just a party phase. Nothing more than a phase of my youth. Everyone goes through it. Everybody drinks a bit too much in their 20’s right? Yeah, but that denial came crashing down pretty fast. I had the same lifestyle, the same habits, and even the same vice of choice as Gwen. And I went through the same withdrawal as her too. I was an addict, and I was in denial for so long.
And speaking of denial… Jasper (Gwen’s boyfriend) has that word written all over him. I’ve had my versions of Jasper in my youth let me tell you that. It’s not easy sticking to sobriety when you have someone who doesn’t believe in sobriety. The Jaspers will always be there to drag you down, and frankly, the only way to stay away from them is to cut them off your life for good.
It’s a crying shame that 28 Days didn’t receive the love and attention that it deserved. I mean, it’s been 2 decades since it was released and it’s still relevant, an educational and emotional gem of a movie. What’s your take on 28 days? Tell me in the comment section. I’d love to know your opinion on it.
So, in conclusion watch 28 Days if you have the chance. It’s been 20 years since the release but ti’s still fresh and relevant in my opinion. It’s a true gem.