October 18, 2015

The Lost Weekend

Prior to watching, I had read a lot about how The Lost Weekend is such a 'real' (by 1940s filmmaking standards) portrait of alcoholism. And having sat through the film,  I can agree; to watch the lead character spiral completely out of control with his/her vice as Ray Milland's Don Birnam is something much more commonplace today; that this was a creation of the forties, that the project was even greenlit to to begin with, that people were actually receptive and willing to leave the house so soon out of WWII to see a movie that provided little by way of warming the heart, and that the Academy actually chose to bestow its Best Picture prize unto The Lost Weekend over friendlier, more popular fare (The Bells of St. Mary's, Anchors Aweigh)  is something that I find surprising to say the least.

And I'll admit; this is pretty real, compared to the other fables Hollywood produced during this particular time. I think this realness contributes to my not liking it that much. It essentially verified my main qualm going in--it lacks cinematic pizazz. Its story is compelling, its performances are well-done, but I felt as though there was something missing here in regards to the overall package. I was never really entranced by the film itself; if anything I was just intrigued. Perhaps it's because of the actual story itself. It's a little too sobering for my tastes. That's not to say that serious movies can't make for a viable Best Picture winner; there have been plenty that have won and are equally as serious as they are entrancing, and I think that that's what's lacking with The Lost Weekend. It gets the job done, it successfully delivers the message it wants to convey, but it doesn't do so in a hugely grand, cinematic way. Contrast this with Anchors Aweigh, which is a fairly simple premise in and of itself but shot so very vividly, outlandishly, cinematically. And yet, I don't think this is a problem that can be blamed on direction. The Lost Weekend is, in and of itself, too human, too grounded in realism to really be the spectacle that I want my Best Pictures to be. I suppose that I'm arguing myself into a bit of a quandary here...I do feel that the film is good. And I do think that it was an inspired win in a category that doesn't films that branch out of the norm.  But was I mystified by it, such that I feel as though I need to see it again? No.


  1. It's interesting that you admire rather than like this film. It's more hard hitting than most films of its time, but it's rather 'clinical' in its treatment of its subject matter. Your admonishment that it's lacking cinematically is right on the money: it's graphic and specific but not very interesting in terms of 'cinema'. I admire it more than 'Anchors Aweigh' by a great deal yet I know I'm much more entertained by AA than I've ever been by 'Lost Weekend' and I don't catch this one on TCM or other 'classic' stations as I do many much less celebrated films simply because it's more a story than a film. You really do have a sense of appreciation for older films as well as a judicial understanding of their merit. Your a film scholar.

  2. No quarrel with the rating, and apparently, there was a lot left out: