Days of Wine and Roses (1962) Movie Review

Days of Wine and Roses (1962) Movie Review

Joe Clay                 Jack Lemmon
Kirsten Arnesen     Lee Remick
Ellis Arnesen         Charles Bickford
Jim Hungerford     Jack Klugman

Director: Blake Edwards                  Release Date: December 26, 1962
Filmed in Black and White

This film was uncommon for its time, addressing alcoholism in marriage with painstaking truthfulness. A substantive piece of work for director Blake Edwards, more commonly known for directing such films as Breakfast At Tiffany's, Victor/Victoria and The Pink Panther movies.

Joe Clay (Lemmon) is a public relations man. He views his career choice as something good, something positive. His job is to publicize the good work his clients do and how that impacts the public. Unfortunately, the truth of his position is something different. In truth, Joe's job description includes arranging and attending numerous cocktail parties, sometimes arranging for beautiful women to entertain his client's guests. At one of these parties he meets Kirsten Arnesen (Remick), his client's secretary. He mistakes her for one of the party girls and insults her conservative dress as inappropriate for a cocktail party aboard a yacht.

Several missteps and insults later, Joe and Kirsten have dinner together. Their evening ends with a stroll to the dock. Joe brings his own bottle of whiskey along for this romantic occasion. It's evident that he has a drinking problem. Kirsten doesn't drink, in fact, can't stand the taste of the stuff. She does like chocolate, however. Joe introduces her to Brandy Alexander - a chocolate flavored drink, which she likes.

Joe's alcoholism doesn't scare Kirsten away. They adore one another and elope. The intoxicating times of their dating life changes, though. Kirsten no longer joins Joe for his work events, as she's nursing a new baby. One night Joe comes home from work, very drunk. He loses his temper when Kirsten shushes him to avoid waking the baby.

Joe rants about how boring Kirsten is now that she doesn't drink with him. He's angry she chooses to nurse the baby which makes drinking out of the question for her. Rather than argue over Joe's drinking, Kirsten sadly pours herself a drink and joins him. This misguided attempt to save her marriage may ultimately destroy it.

What follows is a downward spiral into alcoholism, with no sugar coating. They lie to themselves, one another and those that love them. Those lies are inevitably exposed as their lives speak the truth of their situation. The once posh lifestyle is replaced by lost jobs, binge drinking and betraying the trust of their family.

A brief attempt is made to get sober and clean up their lives. The short period of success is celebrated with 3 pints of whiskey. Joe is institutionalized after this destructive jump off “the wagon” and Jim Hungerford comes to talk to him about Alcoholics Anonymous and hope.

Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick do an amazing job in their performance. The film is raw and painful, realistically unfolding a believable story that is never completely beyond hope.

If you're looking for a happily ever after story, tied neatly with a bow – this isn't it. Not that Jack Warner, head of the studio, didn't want it that way; he was in favor of a “lighter” ending. The night of the premier, Mr. Warner's date influenced him to let the ending stand as is. Jack Lemmon conveniently left the country for Paris after filming was over, ensuring he was unavailable for changes.

Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick were both nominated for Academy Awards in 1963 for their roles in this film. It was Jack's fourth nomination and Lee's first and only. Neither won. That year Gregory Peck won for his role in To Kill A Mockingbird, and Anne Bancroft won for her role in The Miracle Worker. Jack's first nomination for an Academy Award was for his supporting role in Mister Roberts in 1955. He would have a total of eight nominations over his career with two wins, the second being for his leading role in Save The Tiger (1973).

I pay for the video rental service that provided this DVD. I was not compensated for my review.

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