Oscars Challenge #61: The Lost Weekend (1945) Movie Review
Billy Wilder has been known for years because his films are a masterclass for scriptwriting. If you are an aspiring writer and want to write scripts, you may take a look at his movies. Besides this film, The Lost Weekend, he will direct another nuclear movie, The Apartment, where the script drives most of the story.
Winner of the Best Picture award in the 18th Academy Awards, The Lost Weekend tackles a severe and depressing topic about alcoholism. It might have been an inappropriate story because World War II had just ended, and people would rather watch uplifting comedy movies than this one.
With a little warning, this movie tackles different topics like depression, anxiety, suicide, addiction, etc. It may not be suitable for everyone.
It follows the journey of a struggling middle-aged writer Don Birnam, who lives at his brother's house in New York. He has mad aspirations to publish a novel but is having difficulty writing the first sentence. He commits to drown his miseries by drinking alcohol. His brother and his wife want him to change, so they decide to dispose of any traces of alcohol. Confident that Don would not relapse after they threw away all alcohol and thought he had no money, they went to a concert with his girlfriend, Helen.
After finding ten dollars hidden as payment for one of his brother's helpers, he buys two bottles of rye and starts to drink again. He tries to hide the bottles from his brother and Helen, so they will not discover that he drowns himself with alcohol. Throughout the three-day journey of trying to fight his battles against temptations, he vows to write a novel about his experience while his girlfriend supports him even though he sometimes abuses her.
The Lost Weekend is one of the most unique Best Picture winners because of how direct the storyline is. It stars Ray Millard as Don Birman and Jane Wyman as Helen St. James. Philip Terry portrays Don's brother, Wick.
The Lost Weekend is packed with scenes that deals with one of the most common mental health issue, alcoholism. It is one of those hard-hitting movies, even though it has a pretty short runtime. It just simply hit the right notes at the right time. When people were clinging to the after-effects of World War II and needed something to empathize with their emotions, this movie served as a microcosm of their feelings.
The eerie and almost enchanting soundtrack also showcases one's downfall toward addiction. It's like someone cast a spell and tempted Don to continue his habit.
This movie doesn't blow you away with its rich storyline but rather how it was delivered. A rough-edged story packed with beautiful cinematography and lines makes this a deserving Best Picture winner. It kept everything honest and didn't sugarcoat things.
This film joins Marty (1955) and Parasite (2019) as the only three movies that won the highest award at Cannes while also winning Best Picture in the Academy Awards.
One fun fact about this film is the liquor industries tried to undermine and even sue Paramount because it threatened their business sales. It's fascinating for a low-budgeted movie to be facing those controversies. It must be so influential for them to act like that.
This is not the most likable film I have ever watched, but everything hits right about this. It's not perfect, and some scenes were not well-polished, but it is one of the best.
It deserves a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars.