Four Good Days

At the Movies Blog

Glenn Close, who could use a good hug after losing out on another Oscar.

I wasn’t looking forward to watching this movie. My wife even said to me, “You know you’re going to hate this movie, right? And I know exactly what you’re going to say. That the character is a druggie loser.”

Characters can be losers, criminals, or whatever. If there’s an interesting story, you’ll be entertained. Nobody thinks Hannibal Lecter was a good person, but we had a blast watching him. Yet the reason I wasn’t anxious to watch this movie is I’ve seen so many of these drug/alcohol addiction movies over the years. I didn’t think this could bring anything new to the table. Boy, was I wrong. Now, that doesn’t mean you won’t see some stuff you’ve seen before (one scene felt like it was straight out of Terms of Endearment). But damn, if Glenn Close doesn’t keep confirming for me, that she’s one of the Top 3 actresses working today (and I’m still upset she didn’t win the Oscar for The Wife. I told her when I met her at the Critics’ Choice Awards, that I voted for her in that (she won the Critics’ Choice Award for that role). Her first movie was one of my all-time favorites — The World According to Garp.

Mila Kunis is great in comedies (Ted was hysterical), and I liked her in the underrated The Book of Eli (Denzel Washington). If she doesn’t get an Oscar nomination for this role, there’s no justice in the world. 

The movie starts with Deb (Close) seeing her adult daughter Molly (Kunis) on the front porch. She’s looking for a place to crash, and mom is having none of it. After 14 different attempts at rehab, as well as stolen goods from her house, it’s time for the tough love. She’s told she can get clean somewhere else. Deb is on her second marriage, and Chris (Stephen Root, who can always play such a variety of characters so well) appears to be a saint with how he’s dealing with all this. Especially since we find out that Molly and her boyfriend stole his collection of guitars last year.

A new day dawns and Deb sees that Molly has slept on the porch and she feels bad about it. She brings her hot tea, and tells her she’ll take her to rehab. Molly doesn’t seem thrilled by this, but doesn’t have much of a choice. A doctor tells them there’s a new treatment, and it’s a shot that makes opioids ineffective. She can get the shot once a month, and the cravings will stop. The problem is that you have to be clean for four days until the first shot can be administered. And as these four days start, much like I thought when I watched Anthony Hopkins as a man suffering dementia in The Father, I figured I knew where this was going. What I wasn’t expecting, and what made this so much more interesting, is how snotty Molly was. We knew we’d see the shaking, the barfing, and all that jazz. But just the resentment she has, and how she’s being watched all the time, and the doors have buzzers installed so they know if she’s leaving, or even going out to the garage to smoke a cigarette. It reminded me of the subtle snottiness James Woods’ character had in the Stephen King movie Cat’s Eye, where he played a smoker trying to quit. 

It’s interesting how we find out little things about these two characters — how the drug addiction first started, or how the mom disappeared for a few years because of a bad marriage.

Another thing that makes this an enjoyable film to watch are the other various characters. The put upon second husband, and how he’s supportive but frustrated, when they’re talking about the situation while in bed. There’s another scene where they argue in the kitchen that is a masterclass in acting. It’s also nice that in that scene (and most scenes), it wasn’t overwritten with a monologue that didn’t feel authentic. These all felt like real people. That includes the loser ex-husband we meet at one point, and an incredibly interesting scene with Rebecca Field. She plays an old classmate who runs into the mother and daughter at a grocery store. What she says is just so smartly written and interesting, and not at all what you’d expect. And when I’m meeting characters like this, and hearing dialogue that’s intriguing…it makes me wish all the movies like this I’ve disliked (Ben is Back, Beautiful Boy, Traffic, Flight, Clean and Sober, to name the few that pop into my mind) would have gone more down this route.

They do a great job of making Kunis look horrible, and when she manipulates her mother, it’s very powerful. I thought of a great scene Spike Lee did in a film where Samuel Jackson shows up at his parents’ house looking for money. Watching drug addicts treating their parents like crap, despite the fact that they’re trying to help…just breaks your heart.

There’s a quick scene with a sister, which reminded me of the brilliant film Rachel Getting Married. She wants to talk about her life, but her mom is in the throes of being concerned about the troubled child, and is neglecting this daughter. 

There ended up being a scene or two that didn’t work for me, but overall, this was a ride that keeps you on the edge of your seat. 

This is all based on a true story. Eli Saslow wrote this for the Washington Post. They did a great job bringing it to screen. Now the problem will be, getting people to go to the theatres to see it. We’re still coming out of Covid, and maybe audience will just want to watch goofy garbage like Godzilla vs Kong or whatever.

3 ½ stars out of 5. It opens Friday, at a bunch of theatres around town: Hillcrest Cinemas, Regal Plaza Camino Real 12, San Marcos Stadium 18, and my favorite movie house — the Angelika Film Center.

Watching this reminded me of a song on the great CD “Guest Host” by singer/songwriter Stew. It’s called “Re-Hab.” The lyrics are below: 

When she got out of rehab for the very first time

She was very, very, very optimistic.

First she bought a set of paints/Then she started painting saints

‘Cuz in Echo Park that passes for artistic.

Then one day her art dealer came by with a sin

Next thing we knew she was on the rope again.

When she got out of rehab for the very first time

She was very, very, very, very

Very, very, very, very, very, very, very optimistic

Very, very, very, very

Very, very, very, very, very, very, very optimistic.

When she got out of rehab for the very second time

It was clear that she was painfully embarrassed.

She was brimming with clichés/Spoke of how she counted days

Playing checkers with a roadie from Save Ferris.

Then she hit Los Feliz with some homemade earrings to sell

But the hip gift shop assistant led her back to Hell.

When she got out of rehab for the very second time

She was very, very, very, very

Very, very, very, very, very, very, very optimistic

Very, very, very, very

Very, very, very, very, very, very, very optimistic.

When she got out of rehab for the 3rd or 4th time

I suspected, well, a kind of pattern forming.

So I plotted carefully/How I’d bow out gracefully

‘Cuz I’d seen this flick before and it gets boring.

Next she’s in a band called Star of David Brinkleys

They were ropers one and all but they loved them at the Weekly.

When she got out of rehab for the third or fourth time

She was very, very, very, very

Very, very, very, very, very, very, very optimistic

Very, very, very, very

Very, very, very, very, very, very, very optimistic

When she got out of rehab for the 22nd time

Her new take on life was very deep and empty.

She traded mainline for online/Then she took up web design

Now she’s paid in full and blows the horn of plenty.

Once she said, “Hey listen, baby, I ain’t gonna lie. There just ain’t nothing I like more than getting high.”

And funny how the maniacs who took the time to sob

Seemed to not mind a junkie with a well-paying job.

When she got out of rehab for the 22nd time

She was very, very, very, very

Very, very, very, very, very, very, very optimistic

Very, very, very, very

Very, very, very, very, very, very, very optimistic.

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