A chronic alcoholic goes through a four-day bender that
makes him realize what a worthless life he's led thus far.
The Lost Weekend (1945)
Directed by Billy Wilder
Written by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder
Starring Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, Phillip Terry,
Howard Da Silva, Doris Dowling, Frank Faylen
Based on the novel by Charles R. Jackson
Oscar Wins - Best Picture, Best Actor (Ray Milland),
Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay
Oscar Nominations - Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing,
Best Original Score (Miklós Rózsa)
Only a pioneering, progressive mind like Billy Wilder could make a film in 1945 that feels as relevant today as it did back then. The Lost Weekend tackles the demons of alcoholism in a frighteningly relatable way, with Ray Milland delivering the performance of his career as a man chained to the bottle and afraid of his own worthlessness that he himself has caused. And again, this was 1945, where very few films had the balls to say something negative about society or challenge a societal norm like drinking. The liquor industry tried very hard to get this movie shelved before release, but Wilder fought for its completion. Good thing, too.
Don Birnam (Milland) is a wannabe writer who has a severe dependency on alcohol. He's tried to kick it numerous times, but it never seems to stick. His brother Wick (Terry) and his girlfriend Helen (Wyman) want to help him, but it's impossible to help someone who doesn't feel they need it or deserve it. When Don ends up alone on an extended weekend, he crawls into a bottle and tries his hardest to stay there, avoiding his problems like the plague. He starts to consider suicide, but Helen tries her hardest to get him to face the root of his problems. It's an engaging film that really doesn't pussyfoot around the subject matter.
The Lost Weekend feels like it could've been made this year. The way it tackles alcoholism is painfully real and refreshingly human. It's a damn shame Ray Milland didn't have more success as a leading man following his Oscar win for this movie. He did a phenomenal job in a movie that has so much staying power.