Time: 101 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Won Academy Awards for Best Actor, Director, Screenplay and Best Picture. Nominations for Cinematography, Film Editing and Score.
SYNOPSIS: On what he hopes to be his final bender, a failed writer remembers exactly how his love for booze brought him to the ultimate low point of his life.
BOTTOM LINE: Billy Wilder pulls no punches in this honest, dark and brutal tale of one man's battle with the bottle over a long and lonely weekend. Directed or written by anyone else, this film would have been unbearably preachy. As it stands, we literally get under the skin of this disease, seeing the inevitable end of the line for someone unable to resist the temptation to drink. Milland is brilliant as the never-has-been writer unable to deal with the utter failure he's made of himself. Even the love of a good woman – played perfectly by Jane Wyman as neither a nag nor a pushover – and the constant support of his family can't make him stop drinking. The urge is so strong, he's forced to resort to lying, cheating and stealing to quench his thirst. In the end, Wyman saves him from ending his torment once and for all by giving him a reason to go on. Don't worry, it's nothing as sappy as love. Wilder is never that obvious. Though the film has some heavy-handed moments, it is for the most part a gripping portrayal of alcoholism. Milland draws you into his pain, making you a partner in his need and his despair. If you've lived long enough you've had a moment or two like this, which helps to empathize with someone who's not exactly likeable. The score is a bit melodramatic (which the subject matter doesn't need), but the look and feel of the film – it was shot on location in New York – delivers an extremely stark portrait of what this disease does to people and their families on an every day basis. It's not an easy film to watch, but it is an important one to see.