5 March 2001 | Jon Kolenchak
Have you ever been at a party or gathering where you are the only sober person? It's an experience that is hard to describe. Everyone that is moderately to heavily drunk thinks that they are so clever, funny, entertaining, and so on. It has a certain surreal aspect.
There are several scenes in this film which bring back that feeling to me. When Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick are at their most slap-happy rip-roaring state of drunkenness and having a great time, it gave me this odd sensation -- these people are not funny, not clever, and not entertaining. This is at least one of the points made in this very well made film.
The story is well told, and answers the question that many people have about alcoholism, and perhaps addiction in general (How do things ever get so terribly out of control?). It happens slowly, and it happens for a multitude of reasons. The reasons that this film deals mostly with include loneliness, wanting to please others, wanting to do one's job without compromising one's integrity, childhood abandonment, low self-esteem, and just the fact that in the social world "everyone" drinks.
Lemmon and Remick do a fabulous job as your ordinary young couple who get started slowly but surely going down the wrong track. Charles Bickford as Remick's father has little screen time, but makes every moment of it count. Jack Klugman is also very good as Lemmon's Alcoholics Anonymous friend.
Some things are wonderfully telegraphed. Lee Remick has this "thing" about chocolate (addiction potential). There's just a moment when you see a smoldering cigarette in an ashtray, and you get the feeling that something bad is going to happen (it does). When Jack Lemmon, in a drunken state comes home one evening, he impetuously picks some flowers for Lee Remick. The elevator door closes on them, cutting off the tops of the flowers. (When he arrives home, the couple have their first really big fight.) Also, I think it is interesting that every time that Lee Remick is watching the television, she is watching cartoons -- an interesting statement.
The cinematography is realistic, sometimes downright gritty. Filming it in black and white helped to enhance this mood, especially in the greenhouse and the psychiatric ward scenes.
Perhaps the most important point of the story is that addiction, be it alcohol or other things can happen to anyone. Sometimes you just don't realize it until it's too late.
The Days of Wine and Roses is a fine "message" movie that gets its point across without getting preachy or self-righteous, with believable performances by all.