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'28 Days' - The Film

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28 Days is a comedy drama about one woman's time in a substance rehabilitation centre. The film was directed by Betty Thomas and released in 2000. Sandra Bullock plays the lead character, Gwen Cummings and in order to prepare for the role, Sandra spent some time in a rehabilitation centre.

Gwen Cummings lives in New York with her boyfriend. She is a journalist and an alcoholic. Unfortunately, Gwen never stops partying long enough to realise just how dependent on alcohol she is. Her boyfriend Jasper (Dominic West) is in a similar situation, and the two manage to laugh and party their life away, reassuring each other that there is nothing wrong with them. The film opens with a chaotic party scene and its aftermath. This opening sequence is blurry and features loud music, quick editing and messy camera work to make the audience feel like they are in Gwen's position.

Gwen and Jasper wake up the next day and realise they are very, very late for something very important. They hurriedly get ready to go – laughing when they find a bottle in their bed and an accidentally-burnt bra – and catch a taxi to their destination, the wedding of Gwen's sister. They turn up outrageously late and once again Gwen appears to be drunk. Gwen's sister Lily (Elizabeth Perkins) angrily puts up with this, and the audience gets the feeling that she does this all the time. At the wedding reception Gwen and Jasper once again behave outrageously, their activity culminating in Gwen stealing and driving off in the 'Just Married' limousine. As she's drunk, she loses control and crashes into a house. The audience may well be shocked at this point - up until now, Gwen has just seemed like a friendly, if careless, woman who likes to have fun. However, as she is told later on in the film, the lawn jockey she hit with her car could have been a four-year-old child.

The next scene in the film shows Gwen being dropped off at a rehabilitation centre; it is made clear that she was sentenced to 28 days of rehab or jail by a judge. Gwen understandably chose rehab, but when she arrives decides that she cannot stand it – the other people there are chanting! Gwen is quickly greeted by the administrator of the rehab centre, inspected and taken to her room. Here she meets her room-mate Andrea (Azura Skye), who we later learn is a 17-year-old heroin addict. Gwen also meets the other addicts in her group, 'Parker House'; they're a diverse bunch of people with various different habits and professions. At first they seem like a strange bunch to both Gwen and the audience, but by the end of the film many viewers will know all the characters very well, as Gwen does.

Gwen begins participating in various group therapy activities. She enters each one feeling sceptical and making sarcastic comments. She does not seem to realise the full extent of her addiction, saying:

Yeah, I know I drink a lot, I know I do because I'm a writer and that's what I do, we drink. I'm not like those people out there – I can control myself! I can, if – that - if I wanted to, I could, if I wanted!

When she 'uses' again, she is almost sent to jail. Fortunately, an impassioned plea to her 'Camp Counsellor' (Steve Buscemi) saves her from that fate. Gwen realises the extent of her problem and is more enthusiastic about trying to change. We see flashbacks of Gwen's life as a child and her relationship with her sister and mother. This helps us to understand Gwen's situation. Like the footage at the beginning of the film, the flashbacks are blurry and out of control.

Jasper, meanwhile, is not enthusiastic about the way Gwen's life is turning out. He is staying alone in New York, but coming down often to visit Gwen. He is keen on the old life and not very supportive of Gwen's quest for sobriety. He is also not impressed by a new friend Gwen has made in rehab, baseball star Eddie Boone (Viggo Mortensten), as he feels the two are becoming a little too close. Jasper enjoyed the old party life of himself and Gwen, and likes doing outrageous things to 'make a good story'. Gwen gets fed up and informs him 'I don't need any more stories. I have enough stories. I would like a life!' Gwen's relationship with her sister is also shown in several scenes, that might be regarded by some viewers as unbearably sentimental or out-of-place. Alternatively, they might find them refreshing.

It is during her 28 days that Gwen manages to make some very good friends, particularly with young Andrea, who is having a lot of problems that include cutting herself. A huge inspiration in Andrea's life is a soap opera called Santa Cruz1. This doesn't stop Gwen gradually finds herself drawn to the soap opera, watching it with friends. She decides to organise a surprise for Andrea based on the soap opera. At the end of the film Gwen has to decide if she is serious about staying sober and make some painful decisions based on that.

1This is not a real soap opera, but a deliberately poor imitation of one made specifically for use within the movie

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