Movie Review By Heather Clisby
'Drunks,' a BMG independent release directed and produced by Peter Cohn, is a sobering look at the disease of alcoholism. While the cast is top-rate, Addiction is the filmís star.
Jim, played by Richard Lewis, is the pillar of strength for a group of recovering AA members in New York City. Forced to recount his own battle with booze and heroin, it freshens his rage at being widowed by the young wife who led him to sobriety. He then bolts for Times Square, seeking comfort in old demons and we witness ugly snippets of self-destructive behavior.
Intermittently, the film cuts back to the meeting, where tragic confessions illustrate torn lives by, as one woman put it, 'just some liquid in a glass.' Though each character has little more than a single monologue, the acting here is truly superb.
Shelley, the always-amazing Amanda Plummer, is visibly shaky and enduring her mother's endless visit. Dianne Wiest is Rachel, a doctor who lost her husband, children and house but is grateful that her work will always be thereÖespecially when she keeps passing out in the hospital parking lot.
The late Howard Rollins will break your heart as Joseph, an ex-con whose drunk driving led to the destruction of his beloved son. Parker Posey is downright pathetic as Debbie, a Gen-Xer who is beginning to accept that she cannot be Janis Joplin. We also get the bonus of Faye Dunaway, not being a ëstahí but just, yíknow, acting. She plays Becky, a divorcee who realizes her troubled teenage son is troubled for a reason.
Then, of course, there's Louis, played by the always-bewildered Spalding Gray, who simply mixed up the days for choir practice, became entranced by the stories and decided to stay. Thankfully, he provides some necessary comic relief.
Richard Lewis's acting is more credible in the film's beginning. During Jim's cataclysmic speech at the meeting, there are flashes of Pacino in his performance. Though his characterís progressive drunkenness was not nearly as inspired, he delivers some great lines. Pondering a life without drinking, he asks the bartender with heavy sarcasm, 'What do you say? "DON'T set 'em, Joe"?'
"Drunks" is a fine piece of work with one very distinct point: Being an alcoholic sucks. If you are fortunate enough to not have this problem, celebrate by having just one drink and stopping there, because you can.
© 1997 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 8/13/97
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