Betty Thomas (2000, Columbia Pictures)
Starring Sandra Bullock, Viggo Mortensen, Dominic West, and
An alcoholic resists therapy, then discovers she has not led a normal life.
January 7th, 2001 on Video
What we all thought was a
comedy turned out to be a very good drama. If I hadn't just seen
Girl, Interrupted, this would probably have rated 4 stars. It was a lot of fun, and none of the characters got really annoying -even the annoying boyfriend.
This is the standard rehab type of story: Gwen gets in too deep (in
getting drunk once too often and crashing a limo into a house -a terrifically funny scene where she's off to find a cake store because she ruined her sister's wedding cake!). So she gets sent to therapy. Immediately regretting it, because they chant, are always out of cigarettes, and, of course, she can't drink there, she's miserable, and doesn't want to know any of the people there. But of course, she gets suckered into the discussions, especially after she vents when her sister refuses to help her out. Then she gets to know the others in the rehab center. Then she becomes close friends with them. Her boyfriend shows up and gets her drunk again, so she's almost kicked out. And finally, she rejects her boyfriend, which means that she's on her way to being cured.
There were a lot of funny moments, but not enough to tip the scales on the type of movie this is: it's definitely drama. Of course, the definition of futility scene, where everybody repeatedly tries to lift a horse's rear leg (to gain its trust) is hilarious, as is everybody's reaction to Gwen's boyfriend's proposal. There were enough moments to make this movie lighter than it could have been.
For we get to see the realities of rehab (or it seemed like it to me, anyway, never having experienced it). The whole group gathers around to sing and chant as somebody leaves, wishing them luck. But within days, he has returned. Late in the movie, and I'm not sure what point it served, Gwen's roommate overdoses with heroin. This leaves her shaken, and everybody deals with it in their own way. The nymphomaniac baseball player takes to bed the first woman he finds, and others isolate themselves.
There is one other character who befriends Gwen, and wants to have a relationship with her, but she was not interested. But his cynical nature showed that he was getting even less out of the experience than she was.
Really emotional was the scene where they are saying goodbye to Gwen's roommate (the night before she overdoses). Instead of singing or chanting, which the girl knows is false anyway, Gwen writes some scenes from the girl's favourite soap opera, Santa Cruz, and the group acts it out for her. Unfortunately, it doesn't help...
The funniest scene has to be the last scene of the movie. There is a gay guy who wants to know how long he should wait to start up another relationship. The
councilor answered that he should first get a plant, then a pet, and if both of those survive a year (each) then consider a relationship after another year. At the end, Gwen finds the man in a plant store, complaining that his plant had died. He says, under his breath, "I'm never gonna get laid!" When Gwen shows herself, the two hug, and he confesses to her that the dog doesn't like him either! It was so fun, funny and also pulled on the heartstrings.
So Gwen went from freewheeling drunk -with no desire to remain sober, to a responsible person who is afraid (rightfully so) of ever taking a drink again. But she still loves her boyfriend. And he promises to change for her, but on her first night back, some friends see them at a restaurant and want them to join the growing table.
Recognizing the signs of a rough night to come, based on her previous life, Gwen declines, but her boyfriend doesn't agree. She finally decides that she's on the road to recovery when she convinces a horse to lift its hoof, and decides to sever all ties with her old life -and she walks away from her boyfriend.
The movie was a lot of fun, showing a personal journey that was full of rough edges. But when she finally let a small part of her accept that she needed help, it pulled the rest of her in, and she
realized that her previous life was no life at all. They said that three out of ten people successfully survive rehab. By the end, we are sure that she's one of them.