28 Days

(Betty Thomas, USA, 2000)


The life of Gwen (Sandra Bullock) is a blur – especially when rendered in ugly, smeary, low-tech video. She parties with her irresponsible boyfriend, Jasper (Dominic West), gets smashed, and even manages to set her apartment on fire during lovemaking.

In a Martin Scorsese movie, such a binge might be made to look rather attractive and exciting. But we know exactly where Gwen is heading – to rock bottom. Arrested for reckless driving, she is ordered to attend a rehabilitation clinic for twenty-eight days. Gwen is cynical, resistant, undisciplined. She also claims to be a writer, although no evidence of her talent in this area is forthcoming from the movie.

In many respects, this is a flimsier version of Girl, Interrupted (1999) – hardly a film that deserves emulation. Again, we have a familiar cross-section of psychological types: the morose depressive, the grouchy neurotic, the chirpy patient whose patter hides a suicidal tendency. There is also a no-nonsense counsellor, Cornell (Steve Buscemi), and a choice of boyfriends for Gwen once Eddie (Viggo Mortensen) pops up.

The film's tone is very strange and unconvincing. It alights on serious issues and sends a motivational message to all those viewers in need of urgent rehabilitation, but also tries for feel-good entertainment and a quirky, wacky, eccentric ride. It is a badly judged combination which the script by Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovich, 2000) never succeeds in blending.

The previous films of director Betty Thomas (Private Parts [1997], The Brady Bunch Movie [1995]) share with 28 Days an odd, uneasy sense of humour that owes a lot to the Saturday Night Live school of American film comedy. Thomas' jokey approach to this material leads her to over-egg the pudding with stand-up monologues and a tiresome, extended gag about a TV soap opera.

Poor Sandra Bullock. Those who still harbour fond memories of her in Speed (1994) can only look on sadly as her roles get sillier and her films get worse. It's her career that needs the rehabilitation.

MORE Thomas: I Spy

© Adrian Martin May 2000

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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