Friday May 30, 1997
Adapted by Gary Lennon from his play "Blackout," "Drunks" is said to be the first film to take us inside an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting from start to finish. Allowing for a certain theatricality, "Drunks" is totally persuasive in its account of recovering alcoholics helping one another in a painful and often desperate struggle for sobriety.
Although it ends on a note of hope, "Drunks" is hard to take--especially for those of us who've had to deal with alcoholics for a large chunk of our lives. Yet there is no doubt that this is a worthy endeavor that could just possibly impact upon people's lives.
Although "Drunks" is an ensemble endeavor sprinkled with distinguished names, comedian Richard Lewis, in his first leading dramatic role, is undeniably its star and a commanding one at that.
Lewis' Jim is a man whose sobriety is coming unraveled in the face of the sudden death of his wife some months before. He finds the pressure too much to bear when asked to speak at an AA meeting, held in the basement of a Times Square area church, and flees to go on a binge.
Jim serves as a solid dramatic device, allowing director Peter Cohn to cut away from the meeting from time to time to follow the man as he plunges into a despair. But this character is no mere device, for Jim comes to represent the individual who must finally confront the truth that he must be honest with himself and with others on other issues--that admitting to alcoholism while lying about something crucial in your life is not the way to staying sober.
What horror stories the AA members have to tell. None, however, would surprise any alcoholic or any of us who've attended Alanon meetings for friends and relatives of alcoholics. Here's Faye Dunaway's elegant Becky, deeply afraid that she may return to the bottle if she should lose custody of her son; Dianne Wiest's doctor, long sober, but who's become concerned that she's become a workaholic to avoid doing the real work of becoming a truly recovered alcoholic; the late Howard Rollins as a father consumed with grief and guilt over his responsibility in injuring his small son in a drunk driving accident; and Spalding Gray's Louis, who tries to convince us and himself that he's stumbled on the meeting purely by accident, saying he was coming to the church for choir practice. Other troubled people are played by Parker Posey, Amanda Plummer and many others.
You can only hope "Drunks," which has already played on cable, reaches people with its belief that you can take charge of your life no matter how hard the struggle to do so may be.
Drunks, 1997. R, for pervasive strong language, substance abuse and a sex scene. A BMG Independents release in association with Northern Arts Entertainment. Producer-director Peter Cohn. Executive producers Larry Meistrich, John Hart, Tom Carouso. Producers Shireen Meistrich, Burtt Harris. Screenplay by Gary Lennon; based on his play "Blackout." Cinematographer Peter Hawkins. Editor Hughes Winborne. Costumes Kim Druce. Music Joe Delia. Production designer Michael Shaw. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes. Richard Lewis as Jim. Faye Dunaway as Becky. Dianne Wiest as Birdie. Parker Posey as Rollins. Amanda Plummer as Shelley. Howard Rollins as Joseph. Spalding Gray as : Louis.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times