Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
Reviewed on 2010 August 3
This is a gripping piece about the havoc alcoholism wreaks in a family, with neither sugarcoating nor overly-dramatic (for the ’60s) acting.
Joe Clay (Jack Lemmon, playing against his nebbishy character in The Apartment) is a good-time guy and PR man, who early in the film has the job of herding blondes for an Arab prince’s yacht party. He meets Kirsten (Lee Remick), a secretary and no-nonsense daughter of no-nonsense parents who run a nursery (and would likely have no idea what to make of Joe’s duties like “starlet” wrangling). Joe and Kirsten seem like an oddly matched couple, but she falls for the guy, having no idea what she’s in for when he orders her her first brandy alexander and ignoring his fondness for harder stuff. They get married, and soon she’s as much of an alcoholic as Joe.
Some of the acting is a little thick, but for the ’60s it was good, and the subtle, more powerful stuff overshadows it. What makes it tick is while it doesn’t excuse their addiction, it doesn’t make them out to be monsters either: there’s an early scene where after a bit too much “festivity” one night Joe tries begging off the next day from another quasi-social “work” event where there’s sure to be much alcohol and his boss has none of it. I also liked Charles Bickford’s depiction of Kirsten’s stern dad. He was a tough guy but he wasn’t a heartless cardboard cutout. Jack Klugman is also memorable as a pre-Quincy AA mentsch trying his best to help Joe.
Three chocolate morsels.