The Lost Weekend (1945)Looking at the films of the 1940's. many of these films featured high… More Looking at the films of the 1940's. many of these films featured high society types in zany situations, gallivanting between set up and set up and setting up the lunacy of life as something to mesmerize by the viewing public. Movies were kind of like TMZ is today. In The Lost Weekend director Billy Wilder gives us a look into the fall from grace of writer Dan Birnam (Ray Milland) caused by his raging alcoholism. The title of the film has a double meaning when watching the film. It could refer to the weekend holiday planned for Dan and his brother Wick (Phillip Terry) that Dan ruins by alienating his brother with his alcoholic ways or, the more obvious answer, the fact that this weekend ends up lost to Dan in an alcoholic haze. Even after all of the turmoil and disheartening that's caused by Dan's dependence of the bottle, his best girl Helen (Jane Wyman) still holds out hope that Dan can be saved from his affliction, going so far as sleeping on the steps outside his apartment that is financed by his brothers charity. This film is really about the fall and rise of one man. Dan has been an alcoholic for six years and even though we haven't followed him that entire time, other than flashbacks to watershed moments in his relationship with Helen that always include a bottle or two, it's this weekend that represents the fork in the road that Dan has been working towards all of his life. The film depicts how desperate a person can be in any addictions, not just alcohol. Eventually the addiction even kills Dan's dreams and wants to the point where all he cares about are the rings left on the bar top by his whiskey glass. Dan has pathetically hit rock bottom. Ray Milland deservedly won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Dan. It's a real haunting performance that becomes the focus throughout the film. Everyone else is reacting to Dan's behavior and each of the personality types are represented. The brother who gives up. The girl that stands with him no matter what. The disagreeing, yet enabling bar tender. This film is as much about following Dan's story as it's an examination of how people react to an alcoholic, almost comparable to the stages of grief if we compared it to anything at all. Some people can take it and some can't. This is Ray Milland's film though and he creates a presence where the audience feels those same feelings that those in relationships with Dan feel. Anger, disgust, sympathy, maybe a little guilt. It's all there for us to dissect in our heads. Director Billy Wilder (who also won an Oscar, as did the film itself as Best Picture of 1945) achieves a remarkable feat when making this film. Dan, who is surrounded by the people in his life and living in New York City is hopelessly alone in his addiction throughout the film. There are times, especially when we're in the apartment, that Dan feels like he's a million miles away locked in a claustrophobic filled tomb of alcoholism. This really pushes the film over the top into being a great achievement. Instead of hazy shots and wobbly cameras, Wilder opts to go with the feeling of being an alcoholic. Not the surface feeling of being tipsy, but the never ending alone feeling that no drink can every wash away. The Lost Weekend is one of the best films to come from the 1940's. It's a tale about alcoholism and addiction, but it doesn't talk down to the audience. This is not a temperance sermon, but an exploration into the soul of a man darkened by drink. A true masterpiece.
25 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes