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Movies on Addictions and Recovery

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This section details movies that are about alcoholism, drug addiction and recovery. We have viewed most of these movies and believe they are some of the better movies on substance abuse and recovery. A section we are still working on is a listing of Movies and TV shows that will be airing in the Philadelphia area that deal with alcoholism, addiction and recovery. If there is a movie or TV show that you think should be listed, please contact us.

 

  • Requiem for a Dream (2000) - Evoking the inner landscape of human beings longing to connect, to love and feel loved, is this parable of happiness gloriously found and tragically lost. Parallel stories are linked by the relationship between the lonely, widowed Sara Goldfard and her sweet but aimless son, Harry. The plump Sara, galvanized by the prospect of appearing on a TV game show, has started on a dangerous diet regimen to beautify herself for a national audience. Meanwhile, Harry and his new girlfriend Marion Silver form close bonds with each looking to the other to redeem years of isolation and pain. Their love forms an artificial refuge. After Harry and his best friend Tyrone C. Love successfully launch themselves as drug dealers, the three young people feel invincible. Lulled by early victories, Sara, Harry, Marion and Tyrone convince themselves that unforseen setbacks are just temporary--until they're plunged into delusion and desperation.

 

  • 28 Days (2000) - Starring Sandra Bullock. After getting into a car accident while drunk on the day of her sister's wedding, Gwen Cummings is given a choice between prison or a rehab center. She chooses rehab, but is extremely resistant to taking part in any of the treatment programs they have to offer, refusing to admit that she has an alcohol addiction. After getting to know some of the other patients, Gwen gradually begins to re-examine her life and see that she does, in fact, have a serious problem. The path to recovery will not be easy, and success will not be guaranteed or even likely, but she is now willing to give it a try.

 

 

 

  • Drunks (1997) - Starring Richard Lewis. At the beginning of a nightly Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, Jim seems particularly troubled. His sponsor encourages him to talk that night, the first time in seven months, so he does - and leaves the meeting right after. As Jim wanders the night, searching for some solace in his old stomping grounds, bars and parks where he bought drugs, the meeting goes on, and we hear the stories of survivors and addicts - some, like Louis, who claim to have wandered in looking for choir practice, who don't call themselves alcoholic, and others, like Joseph, whose drinking almost caused the death of his child - as they talk about their lives at the meeting.

 

 

  • Leaving Las Vegas (1995) - One of the most critically acclaimed films of 1995, this wrenchingly sad but extraordinarily moving drama provides an authentic, superbly acted portrait of two people whose lives intersect just as they've reached their lowest depths of despair. Ben (Nicolas Cage, in an Oscar-winning performance) is a former movie executive who's lost his wife and family in a sea of alcoholic self-destruction. He's come to Las Vegas literally to drink himself to death, and that's when he meets Sera (Elisabeth Shue), a prostitute who falls in love with him--and he with her--despite their mutual dead-end existence. They accept each other as they are, with no attempts by one to change the other, and this unconditional love turns Leaving Las Vegas into a somber yet quietly beautiful love story. Earning Oscar nominations for Best Director (Mike Figgis), Best Adapted Screenplay (Figgis, from John O'Brien's novel) and Best Actress (Shue), the film may strike some as relentlessly bleak and glacially paced, but attentive viewers will readily discover the richness of these tragic characters and the exceptional performances that bring them to life. (In a sad echo of his own fiction, novelist John O'Brien committed suicide while this film was in production.)

 

  • When a Man Loves a Woman (1994) - When a Man Loves a Woman is a dumb title (not another classic pop song, please) for a very smart movie. A kind of gender-switch take on The Lost Weekend, it's about a woman (Meg Ryan) whose alcoholism almost destroys her family. That may sound like just another TV movie, but When a Man Loves a Woman is so authentic in detail and emotion, that everything about it seems fresh, urgent, and engrossing. That's because the film is grounded in the actual experience of co-writer Al Franken (assisted by Rain Man scripter Ronald Bass). Franken is best known for his affiliation with Saturday Night Live and Politically Incorrect, and as the author of Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot, and Other Observations. You may recall that Franken is the creator of Stuart Smalley, 12-step programmer extraordinaire. Well, if you want to know how Stuart was born, you can start here. This is no comedy, however. In fact, one of the most painful realizations comes when attractive, "good-time girl" Alice Green (Ryan) and her husband (Andy Garcia) begin to realize how much of a role alcohol played in their marriage and in bringing them together in the first place. The issues and experiences confronted in this movie go far beyond the stuff you see on Oprah.

 

 

  • My Name Is Bill W. (1989) - James Woods gives an unforgettably moving Emmy-winning performance as Bill Wilson, the cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, in director Daniel Petrie's poignant true story that chronicles one man's heroic struggle against alcohol addiction. Bill is a WWI veteran with a doting wife, Lois (JoBeth Williams), who enjoys a triumphant return from the war and great success on Wall Street during the Roaring 1920s. However, the stock market crash of 1929 ruins Bill's career and sends him spiraling into a deep alcoholic depression. Bill doesn't realize the seriousness of his disease until he hits bottom and meets another recovering alcoholic, Dr. Robert Smith (James Garner). As the two men become close and relate their experiences, they come up with an interesting way to stay sober. By making friends and sharing stories with other alcoholics, Bill and Robert continue to fight the battle against alcoholism and go on to found Alcoholics Anonymous, based on their own triumphant friendship. The work these two men began continues to help millions throughout the world who are in recovery and coping--one day at a time.

 

 

  • Drugstore Cowboy (1989) - Gus Van Sant made his name with this offbeat story of a small group of drug addicts who heist pharmacies to feed their habit. Matt Dillon completely broke with his juvenile persona as Bob, the grungy ringleader and jittery mastermind of a junkie crew. With his frustrated wife Dianne (Kelly Lynch), his loyal partner, the easygoing Rick (James Le Gros), and Rick's juvenile girlfriend Nadine (Heather Graham in an early role), Bob plots ingenious heists and spends the rest of his days sitting around the house getting high. When the heat becomes too intense in Portland, the quartet hits the road for small-town drug stores and hospitals, but when their luck runs out it does so in grand fashion. Set in the Pacific Northwest of 1971, Van Sant so effortlessly re-creates the period that you'd think the film was a time capsule--except for the attitude. Van Sant refuses to moralize and lines his sympathies behind his characters. They're no heroes, but Van Sant can't cast them as villains either. His low-key direction concentrates on the flavor of day-to-day life for a crew of junkies living from fix to fix. Even his drug imagery is inventively placid, a dreamy set of floating visions that suggests their own disembodied states. James Remar costars as the dogged police detective Gentry and cult author William S. Burroughs makes a memorable appearance as the aging junkie Tom the Priest.

 


  • Clean and Sober (1988) - Michael Keaton plays Daryl Poynter, a hot shot real estate agent who just happens to have a cocaine and drinking problem. One morning, he wakes up to find a dead woman in his bed(someone he had been partying with the night before)from a cocaine overdose. He also just happenes to recieve a phone call from his employers telling him a huge sum of money is missing from one of his accounts. Panicing, Daryl decides to check into a drug rehab to hide from the law, where he meets tough cookie Morgan Freeman. A recovering addict himself, he now works as a drug counselor, and knows all the tricks Daryl tries to pull. Soon Daryl discovers he just might be in the right place, afterall.

 

 

 

  • Bird (1988) - Clint Eastwood's moody, evocative direction and Forest Whitaker's strong, sensitive performance are the chief proponents to recommend an otherwise muted biopic of '40s jazz legend Charlie Parker, who fell victim to his chemical excesses and convinced the doctor who pronounced him dead that he was a good four decades older than he actually was. The film doesn't try to assign clear blame for Parker's demons, though the era's racism is addressed unflinchingly. Clearly a labor of love, Eastwood's movie structurally attempts to ape the angular music of bebop itself (there are flashbacks within flashbacks, which gets a little confusing), but doesn't quite capture the smolder of the period. Diane Venora registers strongly as Bird's wife, Chan, the woman who can't rescue Bird from the abyss into which he peers.

 

 

 

  • Barfly (1987) - Mickey Rourke plays Henry Chinaski, a poet and alcoholic. He spends his life in bars in Los Angeles, drinking every night. One day he meets Wanda, also a alcoholic and falls in love with her. Wanda is not like his former girlfriends, one is still able to see the beauty she once was before she started to drink. Together they meet Tully Sorenson, who wants to publish some of Henry's poems. For a short time he becomes famous but in the end it is clear that Henry and Wanda have only one goal in life: drinking to forget the lousy life they live outside the bars of Los Angeles.

 

 

 

 

  • Days of Wine and Roses (1962) - Blake Edwards's disturbing adaptation of J.P. Miller's PLAYHOUSE 90 story, starring Jack Lemmon as Joe Clay, remains an anomaly in a body of work largely devoted to comedy. Clay, a San Francisco public relations man who likes to hoist a few, meets secretary Kirsten Arnesen (Lee Remick), who doesn't drink, and after a short time they marry. After a few more months, Kirsten is able to put away as much liquor as her husband. As the years pass, Joe loses one job after another and his wife neglects their child until he begins to realize that both of them are alcoholics. They move into her father's (Charles Bickford) nursery to dry out, but following a couple of weeks of sobriety, they go on a binge. Joe nearly destroys a greenhouse in a fanatical search for a bottle and ends up in hospital ward. Former alcoholic Jim Hungerford (Jack Klugman) tries to persuade Joe to join an organization ro help deal with his problem, but Kirsten coaxes him back to the bottle. Lemmon is at his best and Remick has rarely been better in this shattering portrait of a couple consumed by addiction. Refreshingly free of the moralistic clichés of this genre, its depiction of the glamor enjoyed by drinking in previous decades throws light on the ease with which many were able to slide into oblivion.

 

 

  • Voice in the Mirror (1958) - Jim Burton, chronic alcoholic, is cared for by Ellen, his incredibly patient, sexy, hard-working wife. A doctor's warning that Jim could become mentally ill strikes enough fear into him that he really wants to cure himself...but can't. One night, he meets William Tobin, a fellow drunk, and finds that he helps himself by trying to help Tobin. Thus is born, amid setbacks, a group resembling Alcoholics Anonymous.

 

 

 

 

  • I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955) - Deprived of a normal childhood by her ambitious mother, Katie (Jo Van Fleet), Lillian Roth (Susan Hayward) becomes a star of Broadway and Hollywood before she is twenty. Shortly before her marriage to her childhood sweetheart, David Tredman (Ray Danton), he dies and Lillian takes her first drink of many down the road of becoming an alcoholic. She enters into a short-lived marriage to an immature aviation cadet, Wallie (Don Taylor), followed by a divorce and then marriage to a sadistic brute and abuser Tony Bardeman (Richard Conte). After a failed suicide attempt, Burt McGuire (Eddie Albert)comes to her aid and helps her find the road back to happiness after sixteen years in a nightmare world, not counting the first twenty with her mother.

 

 

 

 

  • The Lost Weekend (1945) - Don Birman is a struggling writer who waters down his writer's block with booze. He shares an apartment with his more responsible brother Nick, who is about to go on a weekend vacation. Nick is worried about leaving Don alone, but Don assures him he will be fine and will use the time alone to write. However, he is not fooling even himself, and plans to go on a bender. After drinking all the alcohol in the house, Don goes to a bar, and while his creativity seems to flow, things go from bad to worse.