28 Days

Directed by Betty Thomas
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Viggo Mortensen, Dominic West, Elizabeth Perkins, Azura Skye, Diane Ladd, Steve Buscemi.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic elements involving substance abuse, language and some sensuality.

Review by Matt Heffernan
April 24, 2000

Sandra Bullock's film career has had many highs and lows, but there has always been a constancy in her talent for making her characters accessible and charismatic (even if the screenplay didn't deserve such a treatment). She has also dabbled lately in producing, but her last effort in that arena, Gun Shy, failed to gain any positive attention. This time, she has put her work into the capable hands of director Betty Thomas (Private Parts, Doctor Dolittle).

Gwen Cummings (Bullock) is the life of every party, especially after a few cocktails. However, she ruins her sister's (Elizabeth Perkins) wedding by falling on the cake, then stealing the limousine to replace it. En route to the bakery, she crashes into a house, and is sentenced to 28 days at the Serenity Glen rehabilitation clinic.

Gwen finds the Glen a little too serene, and her boozing boyfriend (Dominic West) makes regular visits to keep her spirits up. However, she starts to realize that rehab is better than prison, especially when a handsome baseball player (Viggo Mortensen) checks in.

I suppose that 28 Days is the first rehab comedy, which may turn out to be a new film genre. So, the film does have originality on its side, but a truly entertaining screenplay (by Susannah Grant -- Erin Brockovich) and cast are what really make it worth watching. No great truths are uncovered, and none of the characters really make an impression, but it doesn't pander or cop out. The ending was a refreshing surprise, revealing more intelligence than I had thought the film was capable of.

Bullock is by far the leading player, but supporting her is a very large supporting cast, including Diane Ladd, Azura Skye, Mike O'Malley, and Reni Santoni as fellow patients, and Steve Buscemi as her counselor. But stealing the show is Alan Tudyk as Gerhardt, the German performance artist. His inspired performance helps punch up some of the slower parts, and provides the biggest laughs.

So, it looks like Bullock has the hit she needs, and Thomas has another success to add to her streak. The real winner here, though, is Grant, who could now name her price for future screenplays -- especially if they call for big-name actresses to play strong but likeable characters. This is the kind of success it takes for Hollywood studios to recognize women.

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28 Days (2000)

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28 Days (2000) -- VHS
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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan