Alcoholism is a favorite subject for the movies. The first film that I saw that dealt with it was 'Days of Wine and Roses' with Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick. It won an Oscar and featured a poignant love story. Later I saw 'The Lost Weekend' with Ray Milland on television. This Billy Wilder film is a masterpiece and won 4 Oscars. On Wednesday evening we watched the 1994 film 'When a Man Loves a Woman' on DVD. You might think that this strand of movie making is sponsored by AA. This latest version draws attention to the effect of alcoholism on the significant other, and to that extent it is to be commended. Andy Garcia plays the unsuspecting spouse, who, as an airline pilot, is away so often that he doesn't realise that his wife, Meg Ryan, is drowning in vodka. There the unreality begins. Astonishingly, we are supposed to accept the idea that after a quart a day he wouldn't smell the stuff on her breath.
The stars are beautiful people, just like Jack and Lee were. Alcoholics are not. They don't wash; they don't do their hair; they don't dress well; they have food and vomit stains on their clothes; their skin is poor; they have cigarette burns on their clothes and skin. These films deal well enough with the psychological and emotional consequences of alcoholism but they don't deal with the physical. Alcoholics get cirrhosis. They vomit blood. They confabulate. They get violent. Their memories go. They get skin sores. It doesn't make nice viewing. This version had an unbelievable happy ending. Ugh! So not true. Basically a commercial for AA.
The Family Stone was one of those ensemble pieces with Clare Danes, Diane Keaton, Luke Wilson and Sarah Jessica Parker, who I gather has had some celebrity from a television series. She place an uptight Manhattan executive who is exposed to a 'Meet the Family' situation. It is nothing like as funny as 'Meet the Family' and not even as funny as 'Meet the Fokkers', which was a disappointment. Astonishingly, this was nominated for a Golden Globe. The parents have a liberal approach to life. One is reminded of the old joke: "My mother made me a homosexual." "If I gave her the wool would she make me one too?" Parker is unlikable. Redemption comes from a bit of bed-swapping and a bit of slapstick. Not true.
If you are thinking of watching either of these movies that both score 6/10 on the web, I wouldn't bother, though the first is marginally better for its emphasis on the suffering of the spouse, rather than the alcoholic. If you are looking for a really good film on alcoholism try the Billy Wider, But others worth a look include Leaving Las Vegas with Nicolas Cage and I'll Cry Tomorrow with Susan Hayward.