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THE LOST WEEKEND, 1945
Movie Review

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THE LOST WEEKEND MOVIE POSTER
THE LOST WEEKEND, 1941
Movie Reviews

Directed by Billy Wilder
Starring: Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, Frank Faylen, Phillip Terry
Review by Steve Painter



SYNOPSIS:

How daring can the screen dare to be? No adult man or woman can risk missing the startling frankness of The Lost Weekend!

OSCAR winners Best Actor (Milland), Best Director, Best Picture, Best Screenplay

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REVIEW:

Although Billy Wilder had just finished directing Double Indemnity (1944), he was not considered an elite director. That all changed when he made The Lost Weekend (1945), the quintessential movie about alcoholism.

Writer Don Birnam, played brilliantly by Ray Milland, is getting ready for a weekend away from New York City with his brother, Wick. He hopes to bring a bottle of rye along with him. The movie opens with Don trying desperately to hide the bottle from Wick, but in the end Wick finds out and pours all of the alcohol out. Heartbroken, Don suggests that his brother go out with his girlfriend, Helen, to the symphony so that he can get some rest.

With the two gone, Don steals the money Wick left for the maid and buys two bottles of cheap whiskey. On the way home, he stops for a drink at Natís Bar. One drink leads to another and another and by the time Don is finished at the bar he is late for his rendezvous with Wick and Helen. This doesnít matter to Don though. He has two bottles of whiskey and an empty house now. He hides one bottle in the chandelier and drinks the other.

The next day it is back to the bar at lunchtime. At Natís Bar, Don meets a call girl he likes and sets up a date with her. Nat dislikes this. He chews Don out for leading the girl on and for being bad to Helen. Don shrugs it off and says he is writing a book about an alcoholic and a girl, based on his experience with Helen.

In a flashback we see Don and Helen meeting one night in the coat check room after a symphony. Don is not drinking then and the two fall in love. But when Helen asks Don to meet her parents, Don brings the bottle out because of his nerves. He hasnít put it back since.

Telling the story to Nat gives Don inspiration and he heads home to begin his novel. But after typing the cover page the work becomes too much and Don goes to get a drink. He ends up stealing money from a womanís purse to buy a drink. He is caught and confesses. He gets kicked out of the bar and returns home.

In a shot from Wilderís training at UFA, the bottle in the chandelier casts a huge shadow above Donís head. He has to have that bottle. He does and he is happy for a little bit. He is able to work some more, but not very much. Instead, he decides he needs another drink and in order to get that he needs money, so he takes his typewriter and plans to pawn it.

Luckily for him all the pawn shops are closed due to a holiday. Desperate, Don heads to Natís and begs Nat for a drink. He refuses and kicks Don out. But Don wonít let this stop him. He needs a drink and turns to the call girl he broke the date with. She ends up lending him some money, but he doesnít make it very far. He falls going down the stairs of her building and ends up in an alcoholic ward.

Don does not believe he is an alcoholic, but is forced to stay in the room with all the other alcoholics. During the night when one of the drunks has a screaming fit, Don sneaks out and away from the ward by stealing a doctorís coat. At dawn Don demands that a liquor store owner open up and sell him a bottle. He is able to make it home, but Helen is at his doorstep. She has been there the whole night.

He avoids her and makes it to his apartment where he can drink in peace. Unfortunately for him he has hallucinations, just like the doctorís at the alcoholic ward said he would. Desperate, Don screams. Helen bursts in and saves him. It appears things will be fine, but then Don gets another idea Ė suicide.

He steals Helenís coat and pawns it so he can get a gun to kill himself. Helen tries to stop him, but in a the struggle over the gun Don wins. In need of a miracle, Nat comes by with Donís typewriter. Together the two of them are able to convince Don that he can be more than an alcoholic. The movie ends happily with Don writing about his lost weekend.

The movie would win four Academy Awards including best picture, best actor and best director. All the accolades given the movie are deserved. This is a powerful story that is relevant even today. It was made 10 years before The Man with the Golden Arm, Frank Sinatraís movie about a drug addict. Addictions are tough to get over. This movie is tough to watch at times, but well worth it in the end. It is a masterpiece and should be mentioned with the rest of the Wilder classics like Double Indemnity and Some Like It Hot.

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