A hypnotizing expose on what it’s like to really be an alcoholic, Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend is an important film in a few ways, and a great film in many other. Until The Lost Weekend, drunks were typically comical in Hollywood, bumbling about in their drunken stupor causing all kinds of shenanigans. This film changed the way audiences saw alcoholics, and while the comic drunk stereotype would live on, it would forever be marked with an asterisk.
The film opens on a bottle hanging out of character Don Birnam’s window. The camera pans up to Don, played by Ray Milland, as the music swerves into an eerie interlude that immediately suggests temptation, as Don nervously glances at the rope attached to the bottle. Right in the opening minutes, the film makes itself apparent to us. After setting up the characters and setting, the film is content to sit back and let the devastating portrayal of alcoholism run the rest of the show. More and more, the drink grabs a vice-like grasp on Don’s life, and he stumbles further and further into his addiction, and hope seems far away more and more. This film is merciless, and it needed to be. Milland is unquestionably the star of the picture, and he does an exceptional job with great material.
Winner of Best Picture and Best Actor in 1945, among others, this is an extremely well made film that holds as brutal a portrayal of alcoholism as Requiem for a Dream has with drug addiction. The film has become iconic in many ways, and beloved in many more, and it is one that definitely deserves your attention.
Arbitrary Rating: 9/10