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Days of Wine and Roses


NOTE: This review contains info on the ending of the movie.
NOTE 2: This was written pre-Bitter Balcony.

After seeing Failsafe, and realizing what a great presence Walter Matthau can be, I have been picking and choosing my way through his catalog of movies. Naturally, while researching to find his best work (or at least more serious roles like in aforementioned movie) I remembered Grumpy Old Men. In that, along with Matthau, is Jack Lemon. I remember him vaguely in a few movies and thought that some of his classics might also be worth a glance. I found Days of Wine and Roses among those that are highly rated for him.

In this movie we have a public relations man for a large firm, named Joe Clay (played by Lemon). At first it seems that he is more of a pimp (of the call girl variety) than a PR guy, but it’s something that he even notices and mentions to having some discontent with. During one of his preparations for a business party he happens upon a gorgeous Kirsten Arnesen Clay, portrayed by Lee Remick, after some confusion and finding out that she is the boss’s secretary and not one of Joe’s “ladies for the party”. Joe is not a bad man, so he tries to make nice. Naturally, she toys with his sincerity and the courting process ensues. There is only one shift in Kristen’s character where she stops toying with Joe that seems a little out of place, but it seems safe to assume that they did it to move on with the story they wanted to tell. The chemistry between the two leads is great. Jack Lemon is charismatic and Lee Remick’s innocence is intoxicating.

Later in the film, we get to the meat of the story. Joe is an alcoholic. He is not the abusing slobbering type of alcoholic, but just a man who enjoys a few too many drinks and doesn’t realize that he has grown to need it. Kristen is an innocent, trying to keep her body clean while she breast feeds their child – there is a gap in the story where this happened. Joe, being drunk most of the time, coaxes her into drinking. Kristen tries to appease her husband’s request for them to have something to share by systematically addicts herself to alcohol. Sure this can be seen as a foolish move, but when love is involved logic goes out the window.

Slowly the slide down a slippery slope of alcoholism and Kristen looses her innocence to the bottle. Joe eventually learns that this is not the way to continue their now troubled lives and decides that they must stop. What we see from then on is the ebb and flow of alcoholics as they fall in and out of it.

The most bothersome part of the film, for me, is the fact that Joe never suffers any repercussions for ruining an innocent. Kristen falls from grace hard enough not to be able to get back up again and Joe leaves her to her fate. I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the ending of this film since I can’t connect with Joe when he doesn’t take responsibility for his actions and/or his role as a husband.

All in all I think that the movie is worth watching just to see Lee’s character in the early portion of the film. It really is something to see a woman, not today’s woman-trying-to-be-a-man woman, but a real woman. It makes me long for the simpler times that have come and gone and are so far that one can be assured it may never return.

Source of the Bitter: JAS

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