Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle 28 Days

By Marjorie Baumgarten

APRIL 17, 2000: 

D: Betty Thomas; with Sandra Bullock, Viggo Mortensen, Dominic West, Diane Ladd, Elizabeth Perkins, Steve Buscemi, Alan Tudyk, Michael O'Malley, Azura Skye, Reni Santoni, Marianne Jean-Baptiste. (PG-13, 103 min.)

When she boosts a car at her sister's wedding and plunges it through some strangers' living room, the choice for Gwen Cummings (Bullock) is either 28 days in rehab or 30 days in the hole. Seriously believing she hasn't done anything wrong, the perpetually drunk party girl/writer opts for rehab, but she begins having second thoughts the moment she's shorn of her Vicodin and cell phone upon intake. However, try as she might (and she tries mightily in this film), Bullock can't quite shed her sunny persona to show us the damaged alcoholic within. More than anything she's done yet, 28 Days calls on Bullock to stretch her dramatic chops. But the actor's inherent amiability gets in the way. As a drunk, Bullock can only be rebellious and wisecracking; mean and nasty is beyond her ken. Her fed-up sister (Perkins) tells Gwen that she makes it impossible for others to love her. But, in reality, quite the opposite is true. Everyone loves Gwen. And so too Bullock ­ and her darned curse of amiability. The screenplay by Susannah Grant (who also penned Erin Brockovich and Pocahontas) is to be admired for its reluctance to assign sobriety the story's moral upper hand. Its determination to find the humor in the grim situation is commendable though disconcerting. Most of the time it seems as though doing 12 steps in 28 days is a fandango. When the downbeat dramatic moments strike, they do so with the grace of a dance partner who tromps on your feet. The rehab center is temporary home to a Benetton assortment of addicts, none of whom receive enough screen time to make much impression, although it must be said that Alan Tudyk as the stifled gay German twit is too painfully over-the-top to be bearable. And what are we to make of someone who checks into rehab only to find Steve Buscemi cast in the role of therapist. Buscemi!? The twitchy, sad-eyed actor who, for his directorial debut, made the alcohol-soaked Trees Lounge? If a vote were taken, the man would be selected "most likely not to be called in case of emergency." 28 Days is ultimately like an addict caught in a revolving door: sympathetic to the core but not to be believed.

2.5 Stars

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