The first thing I noted about Betty Thomas’ ‘28 Days‘ is that it is often feels like a video (played on VHS) that you’re shown in high school to warn about the dangers of drug addiction. Camera shots and effects are employed, showing off that this was the noughties, an era where new technology could expand the creative potentials. This ‘after school special’ vibe feels overdone with hazy club scenes, heavily soundtracked, and have a shakiness that make you feel like you’re a paparazzi and cuts to face to face interviews with the characters who talk about what brought them to rehab. There is a moral to the story and we’re told that very quickly – the potential of any character development is quickly predicted when the out-of-control Gwen Cummings is drunk at her sister’s wedding and accidentally crashes into the extravagant wedding cake. Her addiction is chaotic and somehow (maybe because actress Sandra Bullock is so familiar) we already know she will recover and be someone to root for by the end of the film.
After a drunk accident where her car crashes into a front lawn, she gets sent to rehab by the court. There is a carefulness to the story – if the accident involved injured people, this would be a much more emotional film about recovery and I think I’d have a lot more to say about it. Sandra Bullock is a good actress but the script was a let down. The synopsis states she’s a journalist but we never really see that as anything pivotal to the plot. I half-expected the ending to be her writing a story about her experience.
It does not look at addiction half-heartedly, at least. Gwen faces up to repressed family problems, in particular with her sister. A scene that could’ve had a really sad song playing during it is when her sister visits her as part of a family therapy session. Gwen’s regret and pain is believable as she responds angrily to her sister’s opinion that she gets to ‘indulge’ herself in drink and parties. It reveals the best side of her character and serves as a turning point in the film. She becomes kinder, gentler, more accepting of her problem and road to recovery. The film looks at what exactly is bad for you and what is good for you. It’s amusing yet very real to see the ‘patients’ find comfort in a dramatic soap opera, possibly the year 2000 equivalent to using Netflix as self care. Further, there’s joy in seeing Gwen discovering and eradicating the toxicity in her life in order to keep up with improving herself. Spoiler alert – it’s not just drugs or drink that can ruin your life! 28 Days is a good watch if you liked ‘Girl, Interrupted’ but I wish the soundtrack was as good as the latter.