Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Sundance with Abe: Four Good Days

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the seventh time. I’m seeing as many movies as I can each day and will post reviews of each as I can, as well as video reviews uploaded to YouTube.

Four Good Days
Directed by Rodrigo Garcia

Drug addiction is a common theme in movies, and such stories usually begin with a renewed connection between an addict and someone they used to know, reunited after a long period apart. The time since they last saw each other is filled in either through flashbacks or conversation that explains what happened between them, with the other party doubting whether the addict’s intentions to get clean and remain sober are indeed sincere. To feel relevant and worthwhile, a film about this subject needs to portray its characters with depth and add something to this template that distinguishes it.

Molly (Mila Kunis) shows up at the home of her mother Deb (Glenn Close), hiding her ruined teeth as she begs to be let inside. Deb, who installed an alarm that beeps every time a door is open after Molly’s last visit, is wary of Molly’s desire to wean herself off the drugs she has been using for years. Convinced that this time is different, Deb checks her into detox and learns that there is a shot which can be given once a month that will negate the effect of opioids - as long as there are no drugs in the person’s system when they get the shot. Both Deb and Molly are unsure if she can make it through a few days without getting high, and Deb’s hawkish supervision of her daughter threatens to drive them even further apart.

This film is extremely reminiscent of “Ben is Back” and “Beautiful Boy,” two films with strong casts that were released in 2018 and dealt with a child coming back into his parent’s life and struggling to get clean. Though Deb is married, her husband stays out of all matters related to his stepdaughter, so Deb is essentially a single parent for the purposes of this film. Much of the material covered in those other two projects is featured here as well, though the presentation in this case is less overtly cinematic or nostalgic, remaining in the present with the time until the shot serving as the main anchor. It’s passable, but there’s nothing remarkable or unique about this approach.

Kunis and Close are both excellent actors who have had great roles in the past. Kunis delivers a lived-in, committed performance, one that resonates strongly even if her most of the dialogue she utters and the things she does are expected. Close can’t match the impact of her most recent turn in “The Wife,” and doesn’t elevate the part as she could have. Director Rodrigo Garcia has made family dramas before, with “In Treatment” and “Mother and Child,” but there’s something that doesn’t feel three-dimensional about his adaptation with reporter Eli Saslow of his Washington Post article about the opioid crisis. Its message may be important, but this film’s depiction is simply mediocre.


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