Warner Home Video presents
Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
"You know what I'd like to do? I'd like to go to some nice place and have a drink."- Kirsten (Lee Remick)
Stars: Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick, Jack Klugman, Jack Albertson
Other Stars: Charles Bickford, Alan Hewitt, Tom Palmer, Debbie Megowan, Maxine Stewart, Ken Lynch
Director: Blake Edwards
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (adult subject matter)
Run Time: 01h:57m:10s
Release Date: 2004-01-06
DVD ReviewIn the great pantheon of movies about alcoholism, Days of Wine and Roses deserves a prominent stool at the bar, alongside such other classics in the genre as The Lost Weekend and Leaving Las Vegas. (And it's a favorite of Tony Soprano's—when Christophuh comes out of rehab, Tony greets him: "Hey, Jack Lemmon! Where's Lee Remick?") It's very much a film of its time—twelve-step recovery programs are so much a part of our culture that they can frequently be used for punchlines, and this movie has the earnestness of an A.A. meeting. It's also an offshoot of television's golden age—this project first had life in live TV—and it shares that sort of stylized kitchen-sink realism with similar projects, most notably Marty. Some of the acting is a bit over the top—my, how the master thespians like to play drunk—but, some of that emoting aside, it's still a pretty affecting piece of work.
Jack Lemmon plays Joe Clay, who is a public relations man, though in name only; practically speaking, his job is to secure available young women and get them liquored up, so that they will, ahem, enjoy the company of his clients. He's dangerously good at his job, but it troubles him, and he's already hitting the sauce when we meet him—Joe isn't just some midlevel executive drinking tee many martoonis at a liquid lunch. He's a guy who's got a fifth of rotgut stashed in his coat pocket. He meets the lovely and teetotaling Kirsten (Lee Remick), and after a bad start, they get off on the right footing—he converts her weakness for chocolate bars into a thirst for Brandy Alexanders, they get married, and each has a drinking buddy for life.
But of course it gets worse from there. Joe routinely shows up late to work with a nasty hangover, and he runs through job after job; Kirsten gets loaded and sets the apartment on fire. Soon, Joe realizes that they've got A Problem, and this becomes A Problem Movie: they're a couple of alcoholics, and they've got to do something about it. Can they lay off the sauce? Do they want to? That's the heart of the matter, and if the story is handled fairly predictably, the two lead performances are really good ones. Previously, Lemmon was known principally as a light comedian, and in many ways this is his necessary transitional picture—he couldn't go on playing Ensign Pulver roles forever. He chews it up and is way over the top in more than a few scenes—destroying every plant in a greenhouse looking for his flask, in a straightjacket in the throes of the D.T.s—and there's no mistaking Lemmon's tendency to get hammy and maudlin. But his Joe is an affecting hero, because Lemmon is so great as an Everyman, and we take the journey with him.
This film may have been the high watermark of Remick's career, and she certainly proves that she's more than just a pretty face. Kirsten's slide from the occasional Hershey bar to gutter drunk is a rough one, and Remick is convincing on every stage of the journey. As is true of the leading man, the director, Blake Edwards, may have been better known for his comedies—these days, we're more likely to think of him as the man who made the Pink Panther movies, or Victor/Victoria. But his shooting style is largely unobtrusive, and he's clearly not one to rein in his actors, especially when they're served up with some of the ham in J. P. Miller's script. Joe's journey, in the second half of the movie especially, could serve as an A.A. PSA, and most earnest of all in this effort is Jack Klugman, who plays Lemmon's sponsor, offering more bromides than Bill W.—he's not wrong about any of these, but he's not a fully realized dramatic character, either. It's also a tendentious and unintentional but bonus treat for us Odd Couple fans, seeing that film's Felix paired up with the TV show's Oscar.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The impressive black-and-white photography is well rendered here, though the tones look almost sepia at times—it's hard to know if this was the intended effect, the ravages of the years, or a problem with the transfer. You'll see an occasional scratch, but the resolution is terrific.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: The title song plays so frequently during the feature that, well, it may drive you to drink. Mono track is pretty clean, though the dynamics are limited; there are also some big-time sync problems, in a couple of the climactic scenes especially.
Audio Transfer Grade: C
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 27 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Blake Edwards
Extras Review: Blake Edwards is a sport, and he sits for a commentary track: "I'm not very good at this sort of narrative, but I'll do the best I can." God bless him, but he clearly doesn't understand much about DVDs, nor about what he's doing there: "Who's listening to me? Who's watching the picture?" Then someone must have run in and filled him in: "It was just explained to me that the audience watches it after." He loves Lee; he loves Jack; he loves Hank Mancini, and likes to talk about the Oscars. (He never won one; Mancini did for the title song; and Edwards thinks that Lemmon got robbed. It's hard to agree with him, though, given that the winner that year was Gregory Peck, in To Kill a Mockingbird.) He admits that he hasn't seen the movie in forty years, and while the idea of getting his fresh reaction to it is nice, it means in practice that he's watching along with us, and doesn't have much to say.
An accompanying vintage interview (05m:05s) with Lemmon shows the actor talking into a phone, answering questions from an unseen interlocutor; Lemmon is projected onto the left side of the frame, and the right side is blank, presumably either because the rights for the other half were unavailable, or because this was a clip distributed by the studio, with the intention that local affiliates drop in their own correspondents, making it seem as if they secured an interview with Big Mr. Movie Star.
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsMid-60s naturalism meets the Problem Movie in this classic look at alcoholism and its ravages on a marriage. Raise your glass of club soda and toast the designated driver.
Jon Danziger 2004-02-17