You just can't win with drugs and alcohol
The Lost Weekend is a 1945 film noir directed by Billy Wilder and stars Ray Milland and Jane Wyman. The film is based on the 1944 novel of the same name by Charles. R. Jackson. It won four Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Don Birnam (Milland) is a writer preparing for a long weekend vacation with his brother, Wick (Phillip Terry). Don struggles mightily with a severe alcohol addiction, and his girlfriend, Helen (Wyman) does whatever she can to morally support him and help him stay on his feet. Don misses out on going on the vacation with Wick, and gives in to his addiction, causing him major grief and distress over the weekend.
Addictions can be a detrimental thing, whether it'd be a drug addiction, video game addiction, pornography addiction, the list goes on and on. To this day, there are many people out there that really indulge in addictions and have no self-control. That is why the story of Don Birnam and his abuse of alcohol is a story that still rings very true today.
Birnam will do whatever it takes to get alcohol, hiding bottles all over his apartment, and stealing money from others, including his own brother, to buy drinks at a local bar. There is one noteworthy shot where Birnam is sitting in a chair in his apartment and we see a full glass sitting on the table next to him. The camera zooms into the glass, as if to resemble Birnam fully submitting to his addiction. There are several shots later on where Birnam is walking down a street, and the background is blurry and slightly disoriented. These are shots to exemplify how Birnam is completely out of sorts, and his life is spiraling downward.
- Birnam's emotions and body language. Ray Milland makes Don Birnam into someone who is constantly agitated, as he is always trying to do whatever he can to acquire alcohol, and have nobody preventing him from doing so. He keeps demanding a bartender to pour him drinks, and he keeps insisting to Helen that he is broken and worthless. The slow, drunk walks truly show what a dumpster fire that Don Birnam has become. His grotesque, unshaven face and ruffled hair are physical signs of his unraveling. If you do not know how hard an addiction can be on someone, Mr. Birnam will give you a clear-cut display.
- The narrative exposition makes the plot feel uneven. The film progresses like normal until Birnam is in a bar and begins to talk about when he first met Helen. At this point, the movie begins to play out lengthy flashbacks, which creates some confusion as to when we can tell if we are in the past or the present. It's important to get relevant background information on our characters, but the line between Birnam's present-day alcoholism and what happened to him in the past begins to become blurry and unclear.
The Lost Weekend presents a solid and timeless example of the underlying dangers of not just alcohol, but addictions in general. Ray Milland's Don Birnam is a character whose struggles and lack of self-control are very heartfelt. It pains to me to say that I am certain there are many people out there who have their life in total shambles, much in the same way as Mr. Don Birnam.
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