28 Days

Time flies when you're having fun.

In "28 Days", Betty Thomas veers away from her usual brand of comedies ("Doctor Dolittle", "The Brady Bunch Movie") to direct a fairly average film on rehabilitation.

Life for hip and happening writer Gwen Cummings (Sandra Bullock) veers off course, when she arrives drunk for her sister Lily's (Elizabeth Perkins) wedding. There she makes matters worse by delivering an audaciously insulting toast, plunging headlong into the wedding cake and finally smashing up the wedding limousine.

Faced with a choice of either a jail term or twenty-eight days in a rehab center, she opts for the latter and arrives at Serenity Glen. There she meets a bunch of quirky charcters, each in their own private hell. There's Andrea (Azura Skye), a teenage soap opera and heroin addict; Gerhardt (Alan Tudyk), a gay German wimp and others. Armed with an "I don t belong here" attitude, she resents the stringent rules of the center and makes herself unpopular in the bargain. Her boyfriend Jasper (Dominic West) also comes over to the center armed with enough contraband goodies. Finally after being caught for drug usage by the counselor Cornell (Steve Buscemi) and threatened with expulsion, she cleans up her act.

Determined to become sober and fueled by childhood memories of her alcoholic mom, she finally gets to the point that she actually refuses champagne and castigates Jasper for bringing it. She also befriends Eddie Boon (Viggo Mortensen), a star baseball pitcher, who is also undergoing treatment at the center. The story is basically about how her experiences there give her a fresh perspective on life.

All the characters are extremely well defined, and great attention seems to have been paid to detail where they are concerned. Sandra Bullock plays out her role with true aplomb. The manner in which she manages to convey a surprising realistic performance without any of the over exaggeration that so often happens while enacting such roles is commendable.

Buscemi enacts his role of a "been there, done that" counsellor to perfection and one wishes that his part in the script could have been a tad more substantial.

Susannah Grant's screenplay is excellent in parts and predictable as a whole. Though she's also written the screenplay for "Erin Brockovich", and while both are very strong female oriented films, the similarity ends there. Here, the story seems a little too simplistic, although the pace wasn't slow at all. Also, Gwen s transition from being a hard core addict to a reformed person seems all too smooth and lacks conviction. Thankfully Thomas has managed to resist the temptation to sermonize here.

While the direction is good, unfortunately, it is nothing extraordinary or new. Flashbacks are shot with a grainy feel; there is a lot of the handheld camera technique being used as well.

Laced with a sardonic sense of humour, the script had a few nice touches, a notable one was that of Louden Wainwright III, the folk singer, whose singing was interspersed through some of the early scenes. Another one was the dig at Hollywood stars by Jasper when he visits Gwen at the center - "where are all the celebrities?"

On the whole, I'd call it a pretty watchable film which could've been a lot better. In fact I'd recommend it to all teenagers as a story about the evils of addiction.

This article was first published on 13 Sep 2000.