The Lost Weekend (1945)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Lost Weekend</strong> (1945)

(On TV, June 2018) You really wouldn’t expect a film about alcoholism to be so … entertaining. And yet here we are with The Lost Weekend, a film about an alcoholic protagonist being offered a weekend out of town to work on his issues … which he refuses in order to go on a three-day bender that leads him to rock-bottom. Surprisingly non-didactic, the script nonetheless carefully maps out the behaviour and coping mechanisms of a functioning alcoholic, before dropping him down as low as he can go: abandonment, debts, imprisonment, hallucinations, suicidal thoughts and perhaps self-redemption at the end. And yet the film remains fascinating and engaging throughout, a paean to director Billy Wilder’s ability, amply demonstrated here and elsewhere, in balancing extremely different tones into a cohesive whole. Ray Milland is convincing in the lead role, although Doris Dowling is captivating in a relatively minor barfly role. The filmmaking techniques here are used wisely, but it’s the message of the film that’s interesting: Alcoholism isn’t always shown in a proper light (often used as a comic device), and this film does manage to find a way to talk about it that still stands the test of time. Hilariously enough, The Lost Weekend was directly inspired by director Wilder’s experience working with noted alcoholic Raymond Chandler during Double Indemnity. I’m not the best audience for the film (I don’t even drink, so it’s not as if I can relate to alcoholism), but I found the film far more interesting than expected, and I find it an entirely acceptable Oscar-winner.

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