Movies in which AA or being intoxicated are part of the plot

Assembled by billy k, with additions by Glenn C.& AA History Lovers.

Reviews below by mostly non-professionals.

Affliction (1997)
starring Nick Nolte, Sissy Spacek, James Coburn, William Dafoe
A Star is Born (1954)
starring Judy Garland and James Mason
Barfly (1987)
starring Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway
Bottom of the Bottle (1956)
starring Van Johnson, Joseph Cotton and Ruth Roman
Chalk Talk (n.d.)
by Father Joseph Martin
Clean and Sober (1988)
starring Michael Keaton
Come Back, Little Sheba (1952)
starring Shirley Booth, Burt Lancaster and Terry Moore
Come Fill the Cup (1951)
starring James Cagney, Raymond Massey and Gig Young
Country Girl (1954)
starring Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly
Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
starring Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick and Jack Klugman
Drunks (1997)
starring Richard Lewis and Faye Dunaway, W. C. Fields,
Great Santini (1979)
starring Robert Duvall and Blythe Danner
Harvey (1950)
starring Jimmy Stewart, Josephine Hull
I’ll Cry Tomorrow (1955)
starring Susan Hayward, Richard Conte
Ironweed (1987)
Starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep.
Lady Sings the Blues (1972)
starring Diana Ross and Billie Dee Williams
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
starring Nicolas Cage and Elisabeth Sue
Life of the Party: The Story of Beatrice (1982)
starring Carol Burnett and Llyod Bridges
Lost Weekend (1945)
starring Ray Milland and Jane Wyman
My Name is Bill W. (1989)
starring James Woods, Jo Beth Williams, James Garner and Gary Sinese
My Name is Kate (1994 )
starring Donna Mills, Daniel J. Travanti and Nia Peeples
Night into Morning (1951)
starring Ray Milland and John Hodiak
On the Nickel (1980)
starring Donald Moffat and Ralph Waite
Sarah T. -- Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic (2003)
starring Linda Blair and Steve Benedict
Shakes the Clown (1992)
starring Bobcat Goldthwait, Julie Brown, Bruce Baum
Shattered Spirits (1986)
starring Martin Sheen and Melinda Dillion
Smash Up (1947)
starring Susan Hayward and Lee Bowman
Something to Live For (1952)
starring Ray Milland and Joan Fontaine
Stuart Saves His Family (1995)
starring Al Franken, Laura San Giacomo
Tender Mercies (1983)
starring Robert Duvall and Tess Harper
Too Much, Too Soon (1958)
starring Dorothy Malone and Errol Flynn
Trees Lounge (1996)
starring Carol Kane, Mark Boone Junior, Steve Buscemi, Bronson Dudley
28 Days (2000)
starring Sandra Bullock, Dominic West
Under the Influence (1986)
starring Andy Griffith, Season Hubley, Paul Provenza,  Keanu Reeves, Dana Andersen
Under The Volcano (1984)
starring Albert Finney and Jacqueline Bisset
Vital Signs (1986)
starring Edward Asner, Gary Cole
Voice in the Mirror (1958)
starring Richard Egan and Julie London
When A Man Loves A Woman (1994)
starring: Meg Ryan, Andy Garcia, Ellen Burstyn
   

No Mention of Alcoholism in the Reviews of the films below

Life of the Party On Thin Ice
Sideways The Verdict

Affliction (1997) Starring: Nick Nolte, Sissy Spacek, James Coburn, William Dafoe

Nick Nolte is a big, shambling, confident male presence in the movies, and it is startling to see his cocksure presence change into fear in Paul Schrader's ``Affliction.'' Nolte plays Wade Whitehouse, the sheriff of a small New Hampshire town, whose uniform, gun and stature do not make up for a deep feeling of worthlessness. He drinks, he smokes pot on the job, he walks with a sad weariness, he is hated by his ex-wife, and his young daughter looks at him as if he's crazy.

When we meet Glen, his father, we understand the source of his defeat. The older man (James Coburn) is a cauldron of alcoholic venom, a man whose consolation in life has been to dominate and terrorize his family. There are scenes where both men are on the screen together, and you can sense the sheriff shrinking, as if afraid of a sudden blow. The women in their lives have been an audience for cruelty; of the older man's wife, it is said, ``Women like this, it's like they lived their lives with the sound turned off. And then they're gone.''

``Affliction'' is based on a novel by Russell Banks, whose work also inspired ``The Sweet Hereafter.'' Both films are set in bleak winter landscapes, and both involve a deep resentment of parental abuse--this one more obviously, since Sheriff Whitehouse's entire unhappy life has been, and still is, controlled by fear of his father. We're reminded of other films Paul Schrader has written (``Taxi Driver,'' ``Raging Bull,'' ``The Mosquito Coast'') or directed (``Mishima,'' ``Hardcore''), in which men's violence is churned up by feelings of inadequacy. (He also wrote ``The Last Temptation of Christ,'' in which at least one line applies: ``Father, why hast thou forsaken me?'') Wade Whitehouse is a bad husband, a bad father and a bad sheriff. He retains enough qualities to inspire the loyalty, or maybe the sympathy, of a girlfriend named Margie (Sissy Spacek), but his ex-wife (Mary Beth Hurt) looks at him in deep contempt, and his brother Rolfe (Willem Dafoe), the film's narrator, has been wise to clear out of the town and its poisons.

Early in the film, Wade decides to show a little enterprise on the job. A friend of his has gone out as a hunting guide for a rich man, and returned with the man's expensive gun, some bloodstains and a story of an accident. Wade doesn't believe it was an accident, and like a sleepwalker talking himself back to wakefulness, he begins an investigation that stirs up the stagnant town--and even rouses him into a state where he can be reached, for the first time in years, by fresh thoughts about how his life has gone wrong.

Because there are elements of a crime mystery in ``Affliction,'' it would be unwise to reveal too much about this side of the plot. It is interrupted, in any event, by another death: Wade and Margie go to the old man's house to find that Wade's mother, Glen's wife, lies dead upstairs and Glen is unable to acknowledge the situation. It is even possible that the sick woman crawled upstairs and was forgotten by a man whose inner eye has long been focused only on his own self-diagnosis: not drunk enough, drunk just right or too drunk? Rolfe returns to town for the funeral and to supply missing elements from the story of their childhood, and the film ends in an explosion that seemed prepared even in the first frame. Its meaning is very clear: Cruelty to a child is not over in a moment or a day, but is like those medical capsules embedded in the flesh, which release their contents for years. Nolte and Coburn are magnificent in this film, which is like an expiation or amends for abusive men. It is revealing to watch them in their scenes together--to see how they're able to use physical presence to sketch the history of a relationship. Schrader says he cast Coburn because he needed an actor who was big enough, and had a ``great iconic weight,'' to convincingly dominate Nolte. He found one. Coburn has spent a career largely in shallow entertainments, and here he rises to the occasion with a performance of power.

There is a story about that. ``I met with Coburn before the picture began,'' Schrader told me, ``and told him how carefully Nolte prepares for a role. I told Coburn that if he walked through the movie, Nolte might let him get away with it for a day, but on the second day all hell would break lose. Coburn said, `Oh, you mean you want me to really act? I can do that. I haven't often been asked to, but I can.' '' He can. and Dysfunctional families have always been the subject of motion pictures.

Recently, with movies like "American Beauty" and "The Story of Us," Hollywood has portrayed American households as candidates to be on the next TV tabloid talk show. Paul Schrader's dramatic portrayal of a troubled family in "Affliction" is as intense as any suspense thriller released within the past few years. The thought-provoking power of his script, based on the novel by Russell Banks, and the methods he uses to execute the vivid, interpretative character study creates more than just a sense of emotion and empathy, but places the audience in the character's shoes, allowing us to explore a tense atmosphere on our own.

The movie looks into the life of a struggling person named Wade Whitehouse, played with extreme intensity by the descriptive Nick Nolte. He is the lowly sheriff of a small backwoods in New Hampshire. Nothing much happens in Lawford, however, thus Wade is usually restricted to plowing the snowy streets and serving as the local school's crossing guard. His ex-wife, Lillian (Mary Beth Hurt), has most custody of their daughter, Jill (Brigid Tierney), and neither relative enjoys his company. Wade's alcoholic father, Glen (James Coburn in an Oscar worthy performance), who abused him and his brother Rolfe (Willem Dafoe) as children, continues to abuse him emotionally.

The subtle town of Lawford is turned upside-down when a rich businessman is mysteriously killed while hunting with Wade's friend, Jack Hewitt (Jim True). Finally given something to investigate, Wade takes his job seriously, even when complications arise when his mother dies, his brother comes home from Boston, and his waitress girlfriend (Sissy Spacek) meets Wade's parents and realizes what she gotten herself into.

As Wade's life starts to completely unravel, the filmmakers neglect to leave out any details; from flashback of his fathers abuse to an uncompromising toothache, Wade is developed vividly and clearly. The movie is best when allowing Nick Nolte and James Coburn to come to terms with each other's hatred for each other. The performances are what make this movie much more distinct than similar but lesser films like "The Other Sister" and "The Story of Us," and even better acted than the masterpiece Award winner "American Beauty."

Instead of milking the dysfunctional family material to the maximum, the film also has tender dialogue and heartfelt scenes that exhibit a loving relationship between Wade and his girlfriend. These scenes make even more tragic the production's unsettling conclusion and increase the overall dramatic impact, which is tremendous.

By the end of "Affliction," like in "The Ice Storm," we feel for the main character's losses. Although this film is more conclusive, it is also unmerciful; we receive no happy ending, no satisfying motifs, this movie takes itself seriously and has no pity, regrets, or agreements.

For Wade Whitehouse, the climax of the movie represents death, grief and sorrow. For us, we can only stare at the screen and try to comprehend what we have experienced through his eyes.


A Star is Born (1954) Starring Judy Garland and James Mason

(Note: this film was originally made in 1937 starring Janet Gaynor and Fredic March.  It was remade again in 1976 starring Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.)

The 1954 musical remake of A Star is Born could have been titled A Star is Reborn, in that it represented the triumphal return to the screen of Judy Garland after a four-year absence. The remake adheres closely to the plotline of the 1937 original: An alcoholic film star, on his last professional legs, gives a career boost to a unknown aspiring actress.

The two marry, whereupon her fame and fortune rises while his spirals sharply downward. Unable to accept this, the male star crawls deeper into the bottle. The wife tearfully decides to give up her own career to care for her husband. To spare her this fate, the husband chivalrously commits suicide. His wife is inconsolable at first, but is urged to go "on with the show" in memory of her late husband. In the original, Janet Gaynor played Esther Blodgett, who with no training or contacts came to Hollywood hoping for stardom. The remake, scripted by Moss Hart, is a shade more realistic: Garland's Esther, though far removed from fame, is a working professional singer/dancer when first we meet her. Both Gaynor and Garland aretransformed from "Esther Blodgett" to "Vicki Lester" after being screen-tested, though Gaynor goes on to star in fluffy costume dramas while Garlandmore logically headlines big-budget musicals. The 1937 Star is Born costarred Fredric March as Norman Maine, Esther/Vicki's sponsor-cum-spouse. March

patterned his performance after the tragic John Barrymore, reining in his emotions in favor of pure technique; James Mason's interpretation is more original, more emotional, and far more effective (who can forget the scene where Norman sobbingly overhears Vicki planning to give up her career for his sake?)

As the studio's long-suffering publicist, the 1937 version's Lionel Stander is more abrasive and unpleasant than the 1954 version's introspective, intellectual Jack Carson; on the other hand, Adolphe Menjou and Charles Bickford are fairly evenly matched in the role of the studio head. Several important omissions are made in the remake. The 1937 Star is Born included Esther's indomitable old grandma (May Robson), a helpful assistant director (Andy Devine) and a soft-hearted landlord  (Edgar Kennedy); all three characters are missing from the 1954 version, though elements of each can be found in the "best friend/severest critic" character played by Tommy Noonan. Wisely, both versions end with the grieving Vicki Lester coming out of her shell at a public gathering, greeting the audience with a proud, defiant "Good evening, everybody. This is Mrs. Norman Maine". Though directors William Wellman (1937 version) and George Cukor (1954 version) handle this finale in their own distinctive manners, the end result is equally effective emotionally.

What truly sets the 1954 A Star is Born apart from other films of its ilk is its magnificent musical score by Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin. The songs include The Man Who Got Away (brilliantly performed by Garland in one long take, sans dubbing), It's a New World, Somewhere There's a Someone, I Was Born in a Trunk, Lose That Long Face and Gotta Have Me Go With You. When originally previewed in 1954, the film ran well over three hours, thanks to the lengthy-and thoroughly disposable-Born in a Trunk number, added to the film as an afterthought without the approval or participation of director George Cukor. The Warner Bros. executives trimmed the film to 154 minutes, eliminating three top-rank musical numbers and several crucial expository sequences (including Norman's proposal to Vicki). At the instigation of the late film historian Ronald Haver, the full version was painstakingly restored in 1983, with outtakes and still photos bridging the "lost" footage. Though nominated in several categories, A Star is Born was left empty-handed at Academy Award time, an oversight that caused outrage then and still rankles Judy Garland fans to this day (Footnote: Judy Garland had previously played Vicki Lester in a 1942 Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the original A Star is Born). — Hal Erickson

The 1954 A Star is Born had better music than the 1937 original, but that's about all that viewers may agree on in assessing one version against the other.

On the downside, the music added about an hour to the running time. The
film was re-cut and shortened by studio executives after release. Despite the efforts of restoration experts, there are today no complete prints of the original release version. Judy Garland benefits from the increased emphasis on her character,  and the film is far more of a star vehicle for her than was the original for  Janet Gaynor. To make room for the songs, several supporting characters from the 1937 version were eliminated. The result is a film that, despite the increased  length, has less story-telling richness, though the deficiency is compensated by  Garland's superb performance. The film was not among the Oscar nominees for  Best Picture, though it did receive six other nominations, including ,for Garland,  James Mason, and "The Man That Got Away" as Best Song.


Barfly 1987 Starring Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway

This movie captures the true essence of life as an alcoholic and the day to day struggles one has to endure. With Faye Dunaway as his companion, we see the true struggle of humanity. With a wonderful screenplay and articulate direction, this must see movie will definitely make you ponder. I felt that the movie was a true drama, but it has many comedic

moments. You will truly be entertained with Henry's whimsical quotes and intoxicated utterances. He is the best drunk/poet you will ever witness on film!

The script for this movie was written by outrageous  poet-author-alcoholic Charles Bukowski. But director Barbet Schroeder  makes it into an oddly amusing story of a pugnacious drunk writer (Mickey Rourke) based on Bukowski himself. Rourke spends almost all of his time

at the bar, struggling with sobriety (he's against it) and, occasionally, having fistfights with the bartender (Frank Stallone). He meets another souse, a formerly attractive woman (Faye Dunaway), and gets involved with her,  which means they drink copious amounts of liquor and try to have sex.

Not much happens beyond that, yet this film is strangely entertaining, for all of its bottom-of-the-barrel humanity. Maybe that's the secret.


The Bottom of the Bottle. 1956 Starring Van Johnson, Joseph Cotton and Ruth Roman

Story an two brothers, one an alcoholic and ex-offender who embarrasses his sober brother, and leaves for Mexico to escape.


Chalk Talk (Year unknown) by Father Joseph Martin

Never released to the public as far as I know. Originally was a movie madeby Father Joe (alcoholic roman catholic priest) for use as a military ‘training aid’. Such a powerful and informative piece of work, it found it’s way into many rehabs (at least here on the east coast.) Father Martin uses a portable chalk board (in a classroom) and explains just what alcohol is and what it can do (with a slant on chemistry). he takes you through all the steps/changes the brain goes through with the ingestion of booze from total awareness/sobriety, through relaxation, euphoria, depression, loss of motor skills, sleep (passed out), coma and finally to death. It is still occasionally shown on Sunday afternoons at the center where ‘alumni’ are welcome. if you can get your hands on this movie, do it.

This movie dealt with the alcoholic….Father Joe published a ‘companion book’about the effects of alcohol on the family entitled “No Laughing Matter©”.


Clean and Sober 1988 Starring Michael Keaton

Michael Keaton plays Daryl Poynter, a hot shot real estate agent who just happens to have a cocaine and drinking problem. One morning, he wakes up to find a dead woman in his bed (someone he had been partying with the night before) from a cocaine overdose. He also just happens to

receive a phone call from his employers telling him a huge sum of money is missing from one of his accounts. Panicking, Daryl decides to check  into a drug rehab to hide from the law, where he meets tough cookie Morgan Freeman. A recovering addict himself, he now works as a drug counselor, and knows all the tricks Daryl tries to pull. Soon Daryl discovers he just might be in the right place, after all.

After making his mark in several hit comedies including Beetlejuice, Michael Keaton startled critics and audiences alike with his acclaimed performance in this 1988 drama about one man's struggle against cocaine addiction. Keaton's comedic energy is transformed here into the kind of jittery intensity that's perfect for his role, suggesting a driven personality who can maintain the appearance of self-control for only so

long before he crashes and burns. After a series of setbacks, Keaton's character seeks refuge in a drug rehabilitation program and must confront the truth of his own addiction at the urging of a counselor (Morgan Freeman) who's heard every lame excuse in the book from addicts struggling to quit. Kathy Baker leads a superb supporting cast as a recovering alcoholic and battered wife whose flagging self-esteem is boosted by Keaton's attention. Under the careful direction of Glenn Gordon Caron (of TV's Moonlighting fame), Keaton and Baker handle this delicate material

with consummate skill and grace, turning a potentially depressing story into a moving portrait of people who must battle their inner demons step by tentative step.


Come Back, Little Sheba 1952 Starring Shirley Booth, Burt Lancaster and Terry Moore

Based on William Inge's classic play, Come Back, Little Sheba is the stirring tale of a life-weary couple who rescue hope from the ruins of the past.

Shirley Booth stars in an Academy Award. - winning performance as Lola, slovenly housewife to Doc Delaney (Burt Lancaster), a recovering alcoholic.

The Delaneys' life is dull and unchanging, but takes a dramatic turn when the couple take in a charming boarder, Marie (Terry Moore).

Marie becomes the daughter the Delaneys never had. But when Marie takes up with a boorish boyfriend, Doc descends into a jealous tailspin and must once again face the temptations of the bottle.

An unforgettable film shimmering with life-truths and dramatic intensity.


Come Fill the Cup Year 1951 Starring James Cagney, Raymond Massey and Gig Young

News reporter (James Cagney) is sacked for drinking. Later gets straight and hires 3 former alcoholics on his staff while still living with his friend Charley who is an alcoholic. Helps a young man through D.T.'s. Good film on the path of alcoholism. Also with Raymond Massey, Jackie Gleason and Gig Young.

Film reflects A.A. precepts: permanent illness and the need to help others in order to stay sober.

Consider it to be one of Cagney's best. A very entertaining film, not merely a morality play, complete with a good plot, witty dialog, and humor. In one scene, the local crime boss (Sheldon Leonard) "forces" two alcoholics to drink whiskey at gunpoint. In an ironic twist, one of the drunks deciding whether or not to quit the bottle in the film is Gig Young, a real-life alcoholic who later killed his wife and himself. The difference between this film and most others is its' contention that the alcoholic must want to quit, and that this desire must come from one's self. I nearly said "anti-booze" film, but that is not true. In it, most of the characters are able to drink without becoming alcoholics, just like in real life. Alcohol aside, this is a classic crusading newspaperman versus gangster story of the 40s and 50s with music and humorous twists for spice.


The Country Girl. 1954 Starring Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly

Story about an alcoholic entertainer's (Bing Crosby) attempt to overcome his addiction to booze, make a professional comeback, and save his relationship with his long suffering wife (Grace Kelly).

This is remade for television in 1982 with Faye Dunaway and Dick Van Dyke.

In the ranking of American playwrights Clifford Odets is usually placed in the second tier behind Eugene O'Neill, Arthur Miller, Lillian Hellman and Tennessee Williams.

Grace Kelly won an Oscar as the faithful, strong-willed, bitter, dowdy co-dependent wife of crooner Crosby who played a whimpering, guilt-ridden alcoholic.

You have to see Grace Kelly in the bags-under-her-eyes make-up and spinster get-ups to believe it. She looks at least ten years older than her25 years with a sour puss of a face and an attitude to match. I think she won best actress (over Judy Garland in A Star Is Born) partly because her  appearance was so stunningly...different. (While I'm musing, I wonder if this was the film of hers that was banned in Monaco.) It would seem to be the height of creative casting to put her into such a role, yet she is excellent, wonderful to watch as always, her timing exquisite, her expression indelible, and her sense of character perfect. When she says to Holden, "You kissed me--don't let that give you any ideas," and then when we see her face after he leaves, loving it, we believe her both times.

Bing Crosby too is a sight to behold in what must have been his finest 104 minutes as a dramatic actor. He too played way out of character and yet one had the sense that he knew the character well. He was absolutely pathetic as the spineless one. (In real life Der Bingo was reportedly a stern task master at home--ask his kids.) Clearly director Seaton should be given some of the credit for these fine performances. When your stars perform so well, it's clear you've done something right.

What about the nature of alcoholism as depicted by Odets? Knowing what we now know of the disease, how accurate was his delineation? I think he got it surprising right except for the implied cause. Crosby's character goes downhill after the accidental death of his son, which he blames on himself. Odets reflects the belief, only finally dispelled in recent decades, that alcoholism was indicative of a character flaw, as he has Crosby say he used his son's death as an excuse to drink. Today we know that alcoholism is a disease, a chemical imbalance. Yet Odets knew this practical truth (from the words
he puts into the mouth of William Holden's character): an alcoholic stops drinking when he dies or when he gives it up himself. It is interesting to note that as a play The Country Girl appeared in 1950, the same year as William Inge's Come Back, Little Sheba, which also dealt with alcoholism. The intuitive understanding of alcoholism by these two great playwrights might be compared with the present scientific understanding.

Here's a curiosity: the duet song (best number in the movie; Crosby sang it with Jacqueline Fontaine) has the lyric "What you learn is you haven't learned a thing," which is what the alcoholic learns everyday.

And here's a familiar line, cribbed from somewhere in the long ago:

Fontaine asks Crosby aren't you so-and-so, and he replies, "I used to be."


Days of Wine and Roses 1962 Starring Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick and Jack Klugman.

Days of Wine and Roses is one film not to watch if you are melancholic by nature, as this tale of middle-class alcoholism rings very true.

Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick are the besotted couple who find that life is not always fun when viewed through rosé-colored glasses. He's the San Francisco business executive who marries Remick and seduces her into a cocktail culture that soon overpowers them both. It is not a pretty picture when their life shatters around them, but this film is extremely compelling for their performances. It is matched only by Billy Wilder's Lost Weekend and the more explicit Leaving Las Vegas. This was nominated for five Academy Awards and won for the title song by Henry Mancini and

Johnny Mercer. Filmed by Blake Edwards in 1962, it is based on a Playhouse 90 television production from 1958, starring Cliff Robertson and Piper Laurie.

Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick are unforgettable -- and the title tune wins an Oscar(R) in Blake Edwards' searing, bittersweet study of an alcoholic couple on the rocks.  Jack Klugman plays the AA.

This is a shocking film. From the moment we see Joe Clay in a crowded bar telling the barman to "Hit me again" and whispering "Magic time!" before taking a drink, we realise that out of all the people in that room he is the man with a problem.

Sadly, as in all these cases Joe is the last person to see that he needs help. Doubly sadly he takes someone else with him. Marrying a bright, non-drinking Kirsten, Joe introduces her to the pleasures of social drinking.

Reluctant at first, after her first few Brandy Alexanders have made her giggly, Kirsten admits that having a drink "made me feel good".

Unhappily their drinking doesn't stop there. Frustrated at work Joe feels the only way he can relax is to have "a coupla blasts" in the evening. Then he is frustrated because his wife is "stone cold sober". Wanting to demonstrate her love for Joe, Kirsten joins him in nightly sessions which find her drinking more and regularly getting drunk. As Kirsten develops a liking for liquor, bottles go missing from the drinks cupboard…

When Joe is demoted and sent out of town Kirsten finds the best way to ease her loneliness is to drink it away. Drunk in the daytime she sets fire to their apartment and almost kills herself and her young child.

Joe is fired and the next few years are a series of short-lived jobs and increasing addiction to drink. It certainly seems to be usual for Kirsten to be fairly drunk by the time Joe comes home.

At last Joe has his "moment of clarity" and tries to dry out. The attempt fails when he and Kirsten fall off the wagon and start getting very drunk again.

Their only hope is to join Alcoholics Anonymous. Joe can see this, but now it is Kirsten who refuses to believe she has a problem.

Ultimately Joe has to make the nightmare decision to reject his wife who is now unable to face life without being drunk.

Watching this shattering film is like being trapped in a nightmare where something horrible is happening and yet you cannot look away. A sense of doom hangs over this tragic couple who are unaware of the fate they are walking into.

Thankfully the performances and direction are more than capable of delivering on the promise of this uncompromising story.


Drunks 1997 Starring Richard Lewis and Faye Dunaway

Who knew comedian Richard Lewis could act? There is no plot to speak of in this character study, which follows AA members who meet in a Times Square basement to bare their souls. The performances, however, are dazzling. A sparse plot follows Lewis through one dark, soul-searching night in which he questions his life, his choices, and his sobriety.

The direction is minimal, but Faye Dunaway, Spalding Gray, Parker Posey, Amanda Plummer, Dianne Wiest, and Howard Rollins bring out the intense emotions and dark, bitter humor of Gary Lennon's play, Blackout. We could have used more time with all of them, however, as the only fully realized character is played by Lewis.


Fields W.C. (Jan. 29, 1880 - December 25, 1946) –

Numerous Movies - 1915 to 1942

Comment (sic.) by Glenn C

These are movie classics from the grand old period. They're still a lot of fun to watch today. It was the great era of Mae West, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, and those other old classics.

Fields (who actually was an alcoholic) played an extremely cynical and crotchety alcoholic in a lot of the movies in which he appeared.

He died of a stomach hemorrhage. A friend visited him in the hospital shortly before his death, and discovered, to his surprise, that Fields was reading the Bible. Since Fields had always been an atheist, he asked him what he was doing that for, and Fields replied, "I'm checking for loopholes."

A typical Fields line: "Twas a woman who drove me to drink. I never had the courtesy to thank her." Another one was: "Whilst traveling through the Andes Mountains, we lost our corkscrew. Had to live on food and water for several days!"

For those of us who are alcoholics, we can see what is actually going on, and it really isn't funny at all. But movie audiences at that time regarded him as a comic figure at whom they could laugh heartily, without even a twinge of uneasiness. And that in itself is a commentary on that era of American history, and the way people thought about alcoholism and drunkenness.


Great Santini 1979 Starring Robert Duvall, and Blythe Danner

Bull Meechum (Robert Duvall) loves fighting almost as much as he loves the Marine Corps. Profane, cocky, and arrogant, he's a great fighter pilot -- and he knows it. His boss hates his guts, but knows that if he's going to straighten out his lagging squadron, Meechum is the man to do it. The story and irony of The Great Santini is in Meechum's total intolerance of family life and fatherhood. Meechum has a lovely, supportive wife, Lillian (Blythe Danner), an earnest, likeable son, Ben (Michael O'Keefe), three smaller children, and a good home, but Meechum finds the pastoral nature of peacetime totally incompatible with his gung-ho nature. So he begins to drink. He drills his family unmercifully, like recruits. He hammers his son relentlessly until, in a basketball game, his son fights back, and the family cheers Ben's efforts. Tension builds in the household until, during one drunken night, Meechum breaks down.

Based on a best-selling novel by Pat Conroy, The Great Santini earned critical raves but fared poorly at the box office. Duvall's performance as Meechum is generally regarded as one of his greatest.


Harvey 1950 Starring Jimmy Stewart, Josephine Hull

This excellent lighthearted film was adapted from the Pulitzer Prize winning hit play written by Mary Chase. Josephine Hull won a best supporting actress Oscar for her portrayal of Elwood P. Dowd's long suffering sister Veta Louise Simmons. James Stewart, who plays Dowd, was nominated for best actor in this 1950 film but lost out to Jose Ferrer in Cyrano de Bergerac.

Elwood P. Dowd is a friendly, likeable drunk who has a best friend named Harvey, a six foot three and a half inch invisible white rabbit.

This movie was made back in the days when alcoholics could be likeable .... People have written disputing that Elwood P. Dowd is a drunk because you never see him take a drink during the movie. While it is true that you don't see him taking a drink in movie, you have to assume that he orders all those martinis for some reason. You also have to assume that he hides bottles in his bookcase at home for some reason, too.

Harvey is a pooka, which is described in the movie as, "From old Celtic mythology, a fairy spirit in animal form, always very large. The pooka appears here and there, now and then, to this one and that one. A benign but mischievous creature very fond of rumpots, crackpots, and...."

Jesse White does a good job portraying Marvin Wilson, the psychiatric orderly who totally mistrusts Elwood P. Dowd and isn't fond of him as the other characters in the movie seem to be. Veta Simmons' daughter, Myrtle May Simmons, is played by Victoria Horne. She is frustrated in her attempts to meet eligible gentlemen and blames her lack of suitable callers on Elwood and his large rabbit. She meets her soul mate in the form of Marvin Wilson, however. Elwood P. Dowd tries, all through the movie, to introduce Harvey to everyone he meets but the only one who eventually sees him is Dr. Chumley, the psychiatrist. Dowd's sister Veta sometimes acknowledges the existence of Harvey but only when she's under extreme stress.

Some people may say that this movie is dated and out of touch with today's reality but maybe that's what gives it its charm.


I’ll Cry Tomorrow 1955 Starring Susan Hayward, Richard Conte

"I'll Cry Tomorrow" is a biopic about Lillian Roth (played in adulthood by Susan Hayward), a singer pushed to child stardom by her relentless  stage mother and plunged into alcoholism after becoming a "big star" as an adult. It's fairly effective in spite of Susan Hayward's histrionics and deliciously enjoyable because of them.

Hayward is rather an anomaly. She has a Dresden doll pretty face yet this gruff voice (reminiscent of Barbara Stanwyck, a fellow Brooklynite) and somewhat tough-girl-from -the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks behavior.

She also has a tendency to overdo the emoting like nobody's business, alternately widening eyes or squinting, tossing her head. Her artificiality is reminiscent almost of silent screen acting like Garbo was famous for, except that Garbo's style was appropriate for the silent era and Hayward is in a whole other era where it just looks odd.

When she sneers, "Ah, shaddap" at one point in the worst imitation of a gun moll, I gave in and started laughing. Then I really began to enjoy her. I thought that if she's this over the top in the beginning, she'll be deliciously off the charts in the second half when her character's alcoholism progresses. Surprisingly, she actually got really good in the later half where the excessive emoting works. It then became a wrenching and sometimes even chilling portrait of alcoholism.

As for the singing -- first, what's with that Egyptian cakewalk choreography? Fingers splayed, elbows up, walking grapevine step. In the right key, as with the song "Happiness is a Thing Called Joe," she isn't bad but in some of those opening numbers that require lots of belting and chord changes -- the flat notes can jar. Unlike Judy Garland who could sing and act and do both amazingly, Hayward is flirting on the side of bad taste. But ultimately that's part of her appeal. She's perfect for tawdry melodrama and great fun to watch. She really does give it her all, camp tendencies notwithstanding. Life piles it on and she perseveres.


Ironweed 1987 Starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep.

The novel was awarded a Pulitzer prize.

There are many reasons why this film is a masterpiece, but the most significant element is surely Streep's portrayal of a homeless alcoholic in 1930's Albany.

Her appearance, about half an hour into the film, is quite frankly, astonishing. She walks into a soup kitchen and sits down next to Nicholson and your jaw drops at the transformation. Beyond the technical virtuosity, you marvel at the choices that Streep makes that express the character so movingly, from the vocal production which is almost like a groan of pain, to the body language including her constantly averted glance and shuffling walk which express the woman's lost self esteem, to her bursts of rage when we see the glimmer of the spirit she once posessed. There's a scene in a bar in which she sings forthe patrons that you will never forget.

Every other element of the film succeeds: the other performances (Nicholson, Tom Waits and Carol Baker stand out), the production design recreating a vanished era flawlessly without resorting to the phony perfection of say a Merchant Ivory film, the sound design which is surprisingly complex for such an intimate film, the screenplay, the cinematography, the direction.


Lady Sings the Blues 1972 Starring Diana Ross and Billie Dee Williams

The most influential, creative, and emotional blues singer from the  1930s to the early 1950s, Billie Holiday may have attracted a whole new generation of fans through this 1972 film biography. Though the film is not historically accurate about her life and her relationship with Louis McKay (played by Billie Dee Williams), it is effective in demonstrating the traumas of her early life, the color bar which prevented her from singing in many whites-only venues, her drug and alcohol addictions (which eventually led to her death at age forty-four of liver and heart disease), and the events which led to many of her most famous songs.

Diana Ross, as Billie, is passionate and driven, and her portrayal of Billie in the midst of drug withdrawal is heart-rending and effective.

Playing the role "full out," Ross deals with the script she has been given, and she richly deserves her Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Female Newcomer in this screen debut. A consortium of scriptwriters, which drew on the frank, but partly fictionalized, autobiography Billie wrote with William Dufty in 1956, has omitted or changed many aspects of her life in order to make the film more unified and dramatic, creating a film that creates even more myths about Billie.

Billy Dee Williams is terrific as Louis McKay, appearing slick and smooth at the beginning, but showing subtle changes of feeling as he is

drawn into Billie's orbit and provides some stability for her. The accompanist (Richard Pryor) seems genuinely to care for her, as, it seems, does Reg Hanley (James T. Callahan), though the reasons Harry Bradford (Paul Hampton) has for getting her hooked on drugs is not clear. Ross is surprisingly good when she sings Billie's songs, copying her phrasing and creating a sound that somewhat resembles hers, though Billie's gutsy heart is missing.


Leaving Las Vegas 1995 Starring Nicolas Cage and Elisabeth Sue

One of the most critically acclaimed films of 1995, this wrenchingly sad but extraordinarily moving drama provides an authentic, superbly acted portrait of two people whose lives intersect just as they've reached their lowest depths of despair. Ben (Nicolas Cage, in an Oscar-winning performance) is a former movie executive who's lost his wife and family in a sea of alcoholic self-destruction. He's come to Las Vegas literally to drink himself to death, and that's when he meets Sera (Elisabeth Shue), a prostitute who falls in love with him -- and he with her -- despite their mutual dead-end existence. They accept each other as they

are, with no attempts by one to change the other, and this unconditional love turns Leaving Las Vegas into a somber yet quietly beautiful love story. Earning Oscar nominations for Best Director (Mike Figgis), Best Adapted Screenplay (Figgis, from John O'Brien's novel) and Best Actress (Shue), the film may strike some as relentlessly bleak and glacially paced, but attentive viewers will readily discover the richness of these tragic characters and the exceptional performances that bring them to life. (In a sad echo of his own fiction, novelist John O'Brien committed suicide while this film was in production.)


Life of the Party: The Story of Beatrice 1982 Starring Carol Burnett and Llyod Bridges

A fact-based TV movie starring Carol Burnett and Lloyd Bridges. Burnett plays Beatrice (emphasis on the second syllable: "Be-AT-trice") who compensates for her shyness and lack of self-respect by drinking heavily. Bridges plays Beatrice's husband, who tolerates his wife alcoholic intake until he can stand no more. She begins attending Alcoholics Anonymous and cleans up her act. But that's not the end of the story: Beatrice then sets out to establish a halfway house for other female alcoholics. The domestic scenes between Burnett and Bridges are far more compelling than Burnett's climactic tiltings with bureaucracy during her efforts to realize her dream.


Lost Weekend 1945 Starring Ray Milland and Jane Wyman

"I'm not a drinker -- I'm a drunk." These words, and the serious message behind them, were still potent enough in 1945 to shock audiences flocking to The Lost Weekend. The speaker is Don Birnam (Ray Milland), a handsome, talented, articulate alcoholic. The writing team of producer Charles Brackett and director Billy Wilder pull no punches in their depiction of Birnam's massive weekend bender, a tailspin that finds him reeling from his favorite watering hole to Bellevue Hospital. Location shooting in New York helps the street-level atmosphere, especially a sequence in which Birnam, a budding writer, tries to hock his typewriter for booze money. He desperately staggers past shuttered storefronts -- it's

Yom Kippur, and the pawnshops are closed. Milland, previously known as a lightweight leading man (he'd starred in Wilder's hilarious The Major and the Minor three years earlier), burrows convincingly under the skin of the character, whether waxing poetic about the escape of drinking or screaming his lungs out in the D.T.'s sequence. Wilder, having just made the ultra-noir Double Indemnity, brought a new kind of frankness and darkness to Hollywood's treatment of a social problem. At first the film may have seemed too bold; Paramount Pictures nearly killed the release of the picture after it tested poorly with preview audiences.

But once in release, The Lost Weekend became a substantial hit, and won four Oscars: for picture, director, screenplay, and actor.


My Name is Bill W. 1989 Starring James Woods, Jo Beth Williams, James Garner and Gary Sinese

Based on facts, and faithful to them, it deals with the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. It begins in 1935. Bill Wilson (James Woods) is a successful stockbroker whose personal and professional lives are on the rocks because of excessive, compulsive drinking. Lois, his loving, gutsy wife has to get a job, in a department store. She is played by JoBeth Williams, one of my favorite actresses who is also good-looking in a special, very distinctive way. Bill’s best friend Ebby (Gary Sinise)  witnesses helplessly his buddy’s descent to a sort of Hades. James Woods, one of our best thespians, gives here another bravura performance, and as usual it is quite convincing. When he goes over the top which is a specialty of his -- he is entirely credible.

The story covers a longish period of time. Things are as gloomy and hopeless as can be. To make matters worse, Bill is often hospitalized  after accidents. Eventually he contacts Robert Holbrook Smith, aka Dr. Bob. The latter is an intelligent, warm physician who is himself an alcoholic. Bill and Bob become friends and after a number of steps, the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Often, TV films have economic production values, but here they are just like those of "legit" movies. The entire cast is excellent. This powerful docudrama received a host of nominations for awards, with Woods getting an Emmy.

This is the story of the founding of the organization Alcoholics Anonymous.

I am acquainted with two people who knew Bill W (the main character in the movie) and they say that they believe this is an accurate depiction of  the events shown in it.

This movie carries a great message, and I was deeply touched by the story of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. It's an important historic treasure being preserved in a true and respectful film. The story is straightforward and strong and gives and honest impression of the pioneers of AA. Let this movie carry the message too.. There is a solution.. ;-)


My Name is Kate 1994 Starring Donna Mills, Daniel J. Travanti and Nia Peeples

A suburban wife, mother and businesswoman is forced to undergo treatment for alcoholism after family and friends threaten to desert her. While at a rehabilitation center, she confronts her addiction with the help of a diverse group and begins the long road back to recovering her life.

I started watching this movie because I was curious about how trite and formulaic it could get. While it IS trite and formulaic, it's not as bad as I expected. There was the "Great Denial" scene, the "I Don't Belong In Treatment" scene, and the "Family Confrontation" scene, as well as the character that we all root for who doesn't make it. While there is the standard "Happy Ending", there are a few unexpected bumps. All is not "Happily Ever After". After years of supporting a drunk wife 'for the sake of the kids' the husband admits he has found someone else. But, our heroine prevails, and stays sober.


Night into Morning. 1951 Starring Ray Milland and John Hodiak

Small-town professor loses family in fire, becomes out-of-control and self-destructive (suicidal) alcoholic. No specific treatments noted. 

Attribution is to the tragedy and not to a weakness or moral condition.

Perhaps it's the Berkeley locale that appeals to me, but I was riveted by this intelligently written and well acted look at alcoholism. Sure it's treading on similar ground to The Lost Weekend, but this is a much more intimate picture.

Milland is outstanding as always, and even Nancy Kelly (Reagan) does well.


On the Nickel 1980 Starring Donald Moffat and Ralph Waite

"On The Nickel" is a thoroughly forgotten film about skid row high jinks in Los Angeles. It is directed by Ralph Waite who also plays a part in this 1980 movie.

It is a film which I was lucky enough to tape from the "Z Channel" (now defunct) in Los Angeles many years ago. The brainchild of actor Ralph Waite (of Waltons), it was independently made on a very low budget. In it, Waite manages to balance the tragedy of skid-row life with humor and irony, and in spite of an easy, Fellini-esque ending, tells a moving story of a man (Donald Moffat) a former alcoholic and skid row dweller, struggling to "put his demons to rest" as he searches the "Nickel" (Fifth Street) for his old pal, C.G., played by Ralph Waite. The movie is book ended by the Tom Waits song, "On The Nickel", presumably written for the movie, and has a score that quotes the song frequently. Maybe the Independent Film Channel will consider running it.


Sarah T. -- Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic 2003 Starring Linda Blair and Steve Benedict

Fresh from her success in The Exorcist (and several years away from her tenure as queen of the women in prison flicks), Linda Blair stars in this searing TV movie. Sarah (Blair), a normal teenaged girl, begins drinking socially at high school parties. She soon finds that she can't stop -- and even worse, she can't keep her boozing a secret. After a near-tragic baby-sitting episode, Sarah decides to attend Alcoholics Anonymous, but soon she's back on the hard stuff. Only when Sarah causes the death of a horse does she strengthen her resolve to remain "clean and sober."

"Sarah T: Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic" tempers the more sensational aspects of the subject matter with some unforgettably poignant vignettes -- including the A.A. testimony of a boy who's even younger than Sarah.


Shakes the Clown 1992 Starring Bobcat Goldthwait, Julie Brown, Bruce Baum

Bobcat is Shakes the Clown; an alcoholic party clown that doesn't know how to turn his life around. He hangs out in a dumpy clown-bar ("The Twisted Balloon"), and vainly wishes he could be a television clown.

All he needs is one big break, but he's generally too drunk to do what's best for himself, like practice his juggling and regular pie-throwing target practice. Binky the clown is his arch nemesis; Binky is the suburban party-clown that is used to things going his way. Binky is also busy pushing dope he buys from the more rowdy Rodeo Clowns. Shakes ends up in the wrong place during a bad drug deal and gets framed for killing a leader of the clown community with a juggling pin. That's the basic plot and you know by now whether you will enjoy the movie or not. In my

opinion it's absolutely brilliant and, even though crude at times, makes for an interesting look at the different factions within society and how we behave towards people from different backgrounds. It's not a cutesy morale-building movie, but it's message is thinly cloaked with hilarious dialogue and humor.

Of course it's raw, of course it's crude, but that's the POINT!

Clowns are supposed to be happy, smiling icons of goodness. These clowns are NOT! That's what makes "Shakes the Clown" work. Other than a few minutes of boring "filler" scenes, the entire movie makes you laugh, whether you feel guilty about it or not! And it doesn't even need Robin Williams, although that's a nice surprise. Any movie that opens with Florence Henderson's make-up smeared face after a one night stand with a drunken clown HAS to be great.

This black comedy chronicles the fall of one of the world's most unlovable clowns as he plies his trade and tries to survive in Palukaville a town where everyone is more or less a Bozo. Shakes loves women and more than that, he loves his booze. Like many of his painted peers, ol' Shakes likes to hang out at The Twisted Balloon, the favorite local pub where he hoists a few, beats up on mimes (the lowest caste in Palukaville) and causes trouble with his girl friend Judy, a woman who cannot say the letter "L." Because the slovenly Shakes can't seem to make it to birthday parties sober and on time, he is fired from his booking agency,  causing him to go on a big drinking binge. Later, Shakes awakens and learns that Binky, a lousy TV clown, is framing him for beating up Shake's former boss with a juggling pin. Now poor Shakes must clear his name.

He must also rescue "Juwee" who has been kidnapped by the nefarious Binky, and he must come to grips with his alcohol problem (perhaps the film could be therefore titled "Clown and Sober?"). Keep an eye peeled for cameos by Robin Williams, as a mime instructor, and Florence Henderson as one of Shake's illicit sexual conquests.


Shattered Spirits 1986 Starring Martin Sheen and Melinda Dillion

This film was first shown on TV at the boom time of recovery when Betty Ford was pushing for recovery for families affected by addiction. The story portrays a middle class family hiding dad's (Sheen's) alcoholism and sliding down the slope of denial. The reactions of the family to crises and the roles they each fall into are so accurately done that the
viewer can get way into his/her own alcoholic upbringing and pain before they are aware of it.

I have shown this at several gatherings and it never fails to shake some people up seriously. Kids are especially vulnerable in their teen years. But entire families can get very agitated during the viewing. So I would recommend that anyone showing or viewing this film be prepared to

deal with some extreme reactions for several days afterwards. Don't just show this and send your guests home. Instead have a discussion and a followup trip to a meeting of Alateen, Al-Anon or AA.

Martin Sheen stars as an alcoholic father, while M.I.F. Hall-of-Famer Melinda Dillon desperately tries to hold the family together in the wake of dad's inebriated rampages. The film is pretty good (if vaguely TV-movie-ish), particularly when Martin Sheen tells his son that he's going into a bar to meet a buddy, and comes out six hours later! Was the "buddy" named Jack Daniels? However, I did resent watching the movie a bit -- I sat next to the class cutie, and we'd struck up a nice little in-class friendship. So for three days, the lights were off and we weren't allowed to talk. Thanks a lot! Even so, it definitely opened up an important discussion about alcoholism. I have a weakness for Newcastle Brown Ale, but I try to remember the lesson in moderation that Martin Sheen taught me.


Smash Up 1947 Starring Susan Hayward and Lee Bowman

"Smash Up" is a tear jerker that offered Susan Hayward her first staring role as Angela Evans. Angela has a promising career as a singer ahead of her when she tosses it all away for domestic bliss with  up-and-coming singer husband, Ken Conway (Lee Bowman). Everything is perfect at first, but then when Ken hits the big time, Angela's deep insecurities emerge, and soon Angela plummets into a serious drinking problem. Ken professes amazement and then annoyance with Angela's behavior -- after all, he reasons, she has everything a woman can want. Then the marriage hits the rocks, and Angela hits the bottle even more than before ....

Eddie Albert plays Steve Nelson, Ken's accompanist and partner. Steve is the steady bachelor who can see the error of Ken's remote and  disaffected ways. Marsha Grey (Marsha Hunt) plays a conniving woman who wants Ken for herself.

The film is corny in parts, and the relentless playing of the theme grates on one's nerves, but this is Susan Hayward's film. She delivers a stunning performance as the needy Angela, whose decline begins with her husband's success. Some of the scenes called for her to be drunk, or to get drunk, and she performed excellently. Not everyone can pull off the role of a drunk, but there were some scenes when it wasn't quite clear, at first, whether or not Angela was tipsy -- she didn't overdo it once.

If you want to watch a 40s tear jerker, watch this.


Something to Live For. 1952 Starring Ray Milland and Joan Fontaine

An actress is guided by an Alcoholics Anonymous member to control her alcoholism and her feelings of rejection

I enjoyed this film a lot. Joan Fontaine plays Jenny Carey, a struggling actress whose insecurities and sta.ge fright drive her to drink. Ray Milland is Allan Miller, an advertising executive who is a recovering alcoholic and a member of AA. He is called to Jenny's hotel room by the elevator operator one night when Jenny had been on a drinking binge. She was due at a rehearsal of a Broadway play. This meeting of Jenny and Alan lead to romance, even though Allen is married and has two children and one on the way. Jenny tries to cut off the romance as she feels it is improper, but Allan is totally taken with Jenny and wants to continue the romance. Joan Fontaine and Ray Milland have wonderful screen chemistry. Both are excellent as their respective characters, although parts of the script are somewhat weak. Will Alan leave his wife for Jenny? Will Jenny conquer alcoholism and get her chance to star in a Broadway play?

This film is seldom seen on cable, but is sometimes put up for bid on eBay.

It is certainly worth a look. The film was directed by George Stevens.


Stuart Saves His Family 1995  Starring Al Franken, Laura San Giacomo

Though it seems like a one-joke premise, this spinoff of Al Franken's Saturday Night Live character, self-help nerd Stuart Smalley, actually has some substance. And, in fact, it offers a message that wouldn't be out of place at an Al-Anon meeting (although with the laughs). Stuart, fired from his cable TV self-help show, goes home to resolve a family crisis.

Dad (Harris Yulin) is an abusive drunk, Mom (Shirley Knight) is an enabler, Sis is an over-eater, and Brother has a problem with his temper. The film turns serious, but Franken actually makes the drama interesting, using humor to leaven it. And he brings a certain sympathy and resolve to the lisping, cross-eyed Stuart. To be sure, it's not your typical SNL movie.


Tender Mercies. 1983 Starring Robert Duvall and Tess Harper

Story of "Mac Sledge" (Robert Duvall, Best Actor), former star country singer, lost in the bottle, who recovers and through the non-judgmental health of a new wife (Tess Harper). He stays sober despite the death of his child and post-divorce conflicts. No group or individual therapy indicated.

A once-great but out-of-style country music singer, ruined by drink, finds redemption through the love and support of a new wife, her son by a long-dead Vietnam casualty, and a local band which never forgot his greatness. Along the way, he encounters his ex-wife, whom he lost due to alcohol, and the daughter he didn't get to see grow up.


Too Much, Too Soon. 1958 Starring Dorothy Malone and Errol Flynn

Dorothy Malone as Diana Barrymore who stays away from her alcoholic father during his lifetime only to turn to excessive drinking and numerous marriages and suicide attempts. Treatment center. A "moral" ending with Barrymore in recovery. This is an early portrayal of children and their experiences in alcoholic/drug abusing family settings.


Trees Lounge 1996  Starring Carol Kane, Mark Boone Junior, Steve Buscemi, Bronson Dudley

Steve Buscemi, an icon of the independent film world for years, took the opportunity to write, direct, and star in this wistful low-budget gem. He plays Tommy, a Long Island loser who gets tossed from his job as a mechanic for questionable financial antics. He spends his days at a local bar, drinking his life away even as he denies that he's doing any such thing. And when he finally works up the gumption to get a job, he winds up driving an ice-cream truck in his old neighborhood -- and getting involved in an inappropriate relationship with his teeny-bopper assistant (Chloe Sevigny), earning the violent enmity of her father (Daniel Baldwin). Low-key in its approach, the film has a sad humor that is both knowing and forgiving, as well as offering one of Buscemi's best performances.

Unlike Cheers, the title establishment of Steve Buscemi's astonishingly accomplished debut feature, Trees Lounge, is a place where everybody doesn't know your name and sometimes can't remember his or her own. And for good reason. Take leading barfly Tommy Basilio, played by Buscemi with a subtlety, sensitivity, and desperate wit that add another dimension to the memorable lowlifes he's made a career of. Tommy has lost Connie (Elizabeth Bracco), his girlfriend, and Rob (Anthony LaPaglia), his best friend -- to each other, naturally. He's also lost his job as a mechanic, and everything else that matters in his life except for hanging out at the bar, hitting on drunken women, and thinking just maybe he can break out of this malaise by fulfilling his dream of becoming a comedian. It's not likely; even his car works only as a metaphor for his life -- if he doesn't keep his foot on the accelerator it will stall out, perhaps never to start again.

Set in Valley Stream, the blue-collar town on Long Island where Buscemi grew up, this vaguely autobiographical film captures the seedy bars, tacky bungalows, and cheesy storefronts with such weary familiarity it evokes a gray haze of anomie. True to its subject, the narrative consists of a series of binges and blackouts, with Tommy slipping in and out of encounters with oddballs, hangovers, and constant irrefutable evidence of his own futility. Buscemi's inspiration is John Cassavetes, but his style lacks his mentor's coiled spontaneity and nascent chaos. To its advantage, though, he's much more narratively coherent than Cassavetes, unreeling with casual clarity his film's many interconnecting tales, his tone sweet and nearly serene, belying the sometimes sordid and mean-spirited antics of the characters.

Who include Mike (Mark Boone Junior, bearish and weird in a compelling performance), a relative well-to-do entrepreneur who gets off by slumming at the lounge, cozying up especially to Tommy, and plying him with drinks in a fuzzy attempt to live vicariously in his demi-monde. When Mike's wife (Eszter Balint) leaves with her daughter, he talks Tommy into coming back to his place with a couple of teenage pick-ups for a party.

What results is less erotic than pathetic, with both Mike's need and Tommy's exposed beneath their sodden bravura. Adding to this deflating of macho is a scene in which Tommy tries to pick up a blowzy but seemingly willing Crystal (Debi Mazar). He gets her drunk -- too drunk. She passes out, but Tommy refuses to give up his efforts to score. It's hilarious and very sad.

Tommy's tale takes a dramatic turn of sorts when his Uncle Al (Seymour Cassel, who makes a vivid impression in his few minutes on screen, especially when fondling his niece in a home video) dies of a heart attack.

After a funeral that's a mini-masterpiece of familial insensitivity and bad taste, Tommy is offered Uncle Al's legacy -- an ice-cream-truck route. In addition to the coterie of dubious neighborhood kids disappointed that he's not Uncle Al, the route also includes Debbie (Chloe Sevigny, much more appealing and nuanced than in Kids), the nubile daughter of his friend Jerry (Daniel Baldwin) and Jerry's wife, Patty (Mimi Rogers).

Tommy used to babysit Debbie; now, draped coltishly over the passenger seat of the ice-cream truck, she engages him in banter. It's the closest Tommy gets to a genuine relationship, and of course he ruins it. In a delicate orchestration of tenderness and sexual tension the opening up of his soul leads to the opening up of his fly, and his last chance at redemption ends with him getting chased by an enraged man with a baseball bat.

It takes an extraordinary degree of dramatic integrity, meticulous detail, and triumphant irony to redeem such a loser, and Buscemi -- as writer, director, and actor -- is equal to the task. Although alter ego Tommy is left bereft and staring blankly at the bar, for Steve Buscemi Trees Lounge marks the start of a richly promising filmmaking career.


28 Days 2000  Starring Sandra Bullock, Dominic West

To appreciate 28 Days, it's best to be thankful that director Betty Thomas hasn't forced Sandra Bullock into a remake of Clean and Sober.  Instead Thomas has balanced her comedic sensibility (evident in Dr. Dolittle and Private Parts) with the seriousness of alcoholism and substance abuse, and she succeeds without compromising the gravity of the subject matter. Some critics have scoffed at the movie's breezy, formulaic portrait of 27-year-old boozer and pill-popper Gwen Cummings (Bullock), but this smooth-running star vehicle does for Bullock what Erin Brockovich did for Julia Roberts, focusing her appeal in a substantial role without taxing the limits of her talent. It's no wonder that Susannah Grant (who wrote both films) was one of the hottest new screenwriters of 1999.

She writes "Hollywood Lite" without insulting anyone's intelligence.

As played by Bullock, Gwen is an alcoholic in denial whose latest bender with boozer boyfriend Jasper (Dominic West) ruins the wedding of her sister (Elizabeth Perkins) and lands her in a month-long rehab program with the requisite gang of struggling drunks and junkies. Newcomer Alan

Tudyk steals his scenes as a gay German rehabber who might've dropped in from a Berlin performance-art exhibit, and Steve Buscemi aptly conveys the weary commitment of a counselor who's seen it all. Thomas has surrounded Bullock with a sharp ensemble, and the addition of singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III (as a kind of Greek chorus crooner) is sublimely inspired.

Certainly no surprises here -- the warring sisters will reconcile, and at least one rehabber will fail to recover -- but there's ample pleasure to be found in Bullock's finely tuned performance, and in Thomas's inclusion of flashbacks and tangents that add depth and laughter in just the right dosage.


Under the Influence 1986  Starring Andy Griffith, Season Hubley, Paul Provenza, Keanu Reeves, Dana Andersen

This fine film features one of Keanu Reeves first performances. Who would have guessed he would have become such a big star at the time this film came out. Griffith is compelling as Noah a long time alcoholic with a long suffering family. His wife basically closes her eyes and denies everything, one of his son's runs away and becomes a comedian joking about his dysfunctional family, his daughters become suicidal and his son is an alcoholic too. This isn't a happy bunch by any means, but this film delivers a powerful message about alcoholism and its effect on a family. Its gritty, unsentimental and pulls no punches. Next to Murder In Coweta County, I think this is Andy's most chilling performance. He definitely doesn't play the sheriff from Mayberry here.


Under the Influence is a TV movie about an alcoholic, scripted by recovered alcoholic Joyce Rebeta-Burdett. Andy Griffith plays the head of an outwardly respectable New England family. Griffith drinks heavily, but the rest of the family sweeps his addiction under the rug. When Griffith lands in the hospital, he must come to grips with his illness -- and the rest of the family must stop lying to each other and to themselves.

Under the Influence is remarkable not only for the intelligent, unsensational handling of its subject, must also for Andy Griffith's convincing portrayal of a New Englander. ~ Hal Erickson

Andy Griffith (Matlock) plays an alcoholic who denies his addiction and drives his wife and two of his four kids into their own battle with substance abuse. After he suffers a heart attack, the whole family is forced to face the reality of their dysfunctional lives. Griffith, Joyce Van Patten, Season Hubley, Dana Andersen and Keanu Reeves are excellent as the self-destructive family. Sharply directed by Thomas Carter(Miami Vice), this TV movie offers a sobering portrait of a middle-class family in crisis. An important social issue drama done with style and intelligence.


Under The Volcano 1984  Starring Albert Finney and Jacqueline Bisset

Spying this title on a store shelf, one would hope that the mesmerizing

Albert Finney, who appeared in John Houston's 1984 film version, had done the narration honors. Who else could muster and sustain the sweaty, poetic intensity befitting this extraordinary, beautifully written, teeth-gnashing novel? Set in Mexico on the eve of WWII, the story tells of a man in extremis, an alcoholic consul bursting with regret, longing, resentment and remorse, whose climactic moment rapidly approaches. Nick

Ullett is no Finney, but he comes satisfyingly close. His energy fails him at times; he has difficulty negotiating some of the straggling phrases, but, otherwise, he acquits himself with distinction, particularly in conveying the subtext and atmosphere.

Against a background of war breaking out in Europe and the Mexican fiesta Day of Death, we are taken through one day in the life of Geoffrey Firmin, a British consul living in alcoholic disrepair and obscurity in a small southern Mexican town in 1939. The Consul's self-destructive behavior, perhaps a metaphor for a menaced civilization, is a source of perplexity and sadness to his nomadic, idealistic half-brother, Hugh, and his ex-wife, Yvonne, who has returned with hopes of healing Geoffrey and their broken marriage.


Vital Signs 1986  Starring Edward Asner, Gary Cole

Two women try to rid their doctor husbands, father and son, of dependencies on alcohol and drugs.

Vital Signs stars Ed Asner and Gary Cole as father and son, both prominent surgeons. Asner's skills have diminished as his alcoholism increases. Cole returns to his home town to straighten his dad out.

What no one knows is that Cole himself is a substance abuser, addicted to morphine.

After several near-disasters and squabbling denials, father and son make a mutual pact to wean themselves away from their addictions -- with tragic results. Vital Signs is a better than average "affliction of the week" TV movie.


Voice in the Mirror. 1958  Starring Richard Egan and Julie London

An artist takes to drink after the death of his daughter.

Resists interventions by wife and doctor. Finds the strength he needs to stay on the wagon with the help of a fellow alcoholic - Male AA-Like person.

Richard Egan and Julie London are so realistic together, and Arthur O'Connell merely devastating in this excellent depiction of the struggles of an American alcoholic. The pressures are realistically depicted, andthe struggles vividly felt. The excellent performances never hit a false note.


W.C. Fields (Jan. 29, 1880 - December 25, 1946) – Numerous Movies - 1915 to 1942

Comment (sic.) by Glenn C

These are movie classics from the grand old period. They're still a lot of fun to watch today. It was the great era of Mae West, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, and those other old classics.

Fields (who actually was an alcoholic) played an extremely cynical and crotchety alcoholic in a lot of the movies in which he appeared.

He died of a stomach hemorrhage. A friend visited him in the hospital shortly before his death, and discovered, to his surprise, that Fields was reading the Bible. Since Fields had always been an atheist, he asked him what he was doing that for, and Fields replied, "I'm checking for loopholes."

A typical Fields line: "Twas a woman who drove me to drink. I never had the courtesy to thank her." Another one was: "Whilst traveling through the Andes Mountains, we lost our corkscrew. Had to live on food and water for several days!"

For those of us who are alcoholics, we can see what is actually going on, and it really isn't funny at all. But movie audiences at that time regarded him as a comic figure at whom they could laugh heartily, without even a twinge of uneasiness. And that in itself is a commentary on that era of American history, and the way people thought about alcoholism and drunkenness.


When A Man Loves A Woman 1994  Starring: Meg Ryan, Andy Garcia, Ellen Burstyn

The previews for When a Man Loves a Woman do this film an injustice.

Heavy on poorly-edited melodramatic sequences, they give little inkling of the level of emotional honesty attained. Luis Mandoki's film succeeds not because it tackles alcoholism, but because it faces up to the trauma that eats away at the lives of the non-alcoholics in the family. One failing of the script is that it assumes an unlikely

level of ignorance from its audience. Alcoholism is such a pervasive social problem that it's hard to accept that anyone likely to see When a Man Loves a Woman wouldn't have a better understanding of the disease than the movie gives them credit for. After all, everything from high school health classes to Oprah have, at one point or another, addressed the issue. Unlike AIDS, alcoholism is not a new disease that the public needs to be educated about.

When a Man Loves a Woman centers on a seemingly-happily married couple.

Michael Green (Andy Garcia) and his wife Alice (Meg Ryan) have, at first glance, the perfect relationship. But take a peek beneath the veneer, and there are problems. Alice is a habitual drinker, and her periods of sobriety are getting fewer and fewer. Meanwhile, Michael's duties as an airline pilot take him away from home for weeks at a time, keeping him ignorant of the extent of his wife's problem. Completing the family unit are Jess (Tina Marjorino), Alice's daughter by another man whom Michael has adopted as his own, and Casey (Mae Whitman), the four-year-old child of the Greens. The presence of these children, and their importance to the development of the story, is what elevates When a Man Loves a Woman. As potent as some of the scenes between Michael and Alice are, those featuring Jess or Casey invariably have greater impact. It helps that both young actresses are believable.

Meg Ryan and Andy Garcia were probably given the lead roles more because of box office appeal than an ability to bring superior depth to their characters. Surprisingly, while neither turns in an exceptional performance, they are both solid, and each has a few scenes in which they shine.

The ending is too facile, and When a Man Loves a Woman may take longer than necessary to arrive at its resolution. There are moments throughout when the script is apt to strike a raw nerve with some, as is often the case when a "real" issue is probed with any degree of sincerity.

Whatever else it may do, this film does not play it safe, and the risks it takes keep the audience engaged by the drama.

When a Man Loves a Woman is about pain. This is not an original topic for a movie -- especially one about alcoholism -- but the script does a good enough job establishing the dynamics of the Green family that we never doubt that the story deserves to be told. The film's poignancy is its strength, even as occasional didactic tendencies are its weakness.

In balance, the former by far outweighs the latter, making this a worthwhile picture.


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