Triumph over alcoholism is either uplifting or funny, depending on how it’s played. “28 Days” hedges its bets, playing it somewhere in between, succeeding at neither angle, and coming off as slight, frothy and quasi-meaningful — a “lite” movie if ever there was one.
Sandra Bullock, once America’s sweetheart, plays the drunk-off-her-butt Gwen Cummings. In the opening sequence, Gwen and her boyfriend, Jasper (Dominic West), ruin Gwen’s sister’s wedding, after which Gwen steals the limousine and smashes it into a house.
The mean old judge sentences her to 28 days of re-hab, which she is not happy about; after all, she doesn’t really have a problem with drinking, or with popping whatever those pills are that Jasper smuggles in for her. She enters the Ford Clinic, while the audience enters the Bored Clinic. (Thank you! I’ll be here all week.)
At the re-hab center, she meets the motley assortment of folks addicted to stuff that you’d expect her to meet, as well as a staff that is sometimes helpful, sometimes adversarial — again, just as you’d expect. Call it “Girl, Inebriated.” (There’s two! Good night!)
Gwen superficially learns about others’ problems, and apparently goes through some personal journey of her own, though we were for some reason not made privy to it. All we know is, when the 28 days are up, she gets out and doesn’t drink anymore. Good for her, but how did she GET to that point?
The film’s uneven tone is a problem: Are we supposed to be laughing or crying? Certainly a film can make us do both; the trouble here is that some things make half the audience laugh uncomfortably, while the other half thinks the film is being serious. And I honestly don’t know which one they were going for.
There’s a running joke that is clearly meant to be funny, in which the nurse announces over the P.A. system the subject of that night’s lecture. (“How Many Brain Cells Did I Kill Last Night?” and “What’s Wrong with Celebrating Sobriety by Getting Drunk?” are two.) But another element, the inability of the vaguely foreign, vaguely gay Gerhardt (Alan Tudyk) to express himself, could be very heart-wrenching if half the audience weren’t laughing at it. Which maybe is what they’re supposed to be doing; again, the film does not make it clear how seriously it’s taking its own subject matter.
Bullock is aggressively generic as Gwen. She gives her no depth, no soul, and very little personality. When she starts to fall for fellow 12-stepper Eddie (Viggo Mortensen), our main reaction is, “Hmm. Well, that’s nice. How much longer is this movie?”
C (; )