Watching several hundred movies a year, you come across many that are clearly awful, and a handful that are really great. For the vast majority of them, you might not feel strongly either way but you definitely feel generally positive or generally negative about the whole of a movie. There are then the rarest of them all...ones that seem to land at the absolute direct middle point on the scale. To give a film like this a "positive" review would be to forgive the many grievances or missed opportunities you feel the film possesses. But to give it a "negative" review, you dismiss the several really good things that the movie had going for it.
"Four Good Days" is such a film...the sort of film in which I hope you just read the review and see it just to determine for yourself in which direction you lean...a film that a letter grade or a RottenTomatoes score doesn't bring full justice to. Ultimately though, "Four Good Days" should have been better given what was working for it, leaving the unsatisfactory taste in my mouth to linger longer than my memories of what worked.
It's easy to disregard "Four Good Days" as "just another one of those clichéd movies about drug addiction." I found it to be much more profound than that. It's a story about a mother, Deb (a tremendous performance from Glenn Close, more famous this week for her rendition of "Da Butt" during the Oscars than her record-tying eighth Oscar loss) and her junkie daughter, Molly (Mila Kunis, stretching her acting horizons). It's a film by Rodgrigo Garcia, who years earlier directed Close to one of those Oscar nominations in "Albert Nobbs," and who also brought us the American version of the contemplative HBO drama, "In Treatment." For anyone who watched the latter, you know that Garcia is fascinated by the human mind, the human condition and the various ways in which people process their grief and their own personal problems.
Yes, "Four Good Days" does contain many of the tropes of the drug addiction drama. In this instance, Molly is trying to come clean and tries to re-enter the life of her mother, who has completely shut her daughter out, for her own good. Deb is done trying, she knows that only Molly can help Molly. A new opioid treatment can give Molly a new lease on life, but she has to be completely clean for four more days in order to receive it. That may not sound like a lot, but to an addict, four days can be an eternity.
The film progresses believably and authentically, and I was most struck by the naturalistic dialogue and interaction between the characters. Stephen Root plays Deb's husband, the stepfather to Molly, with a powerful scene coming later in the film when Molly's biological dad, Dale (Sam Hennings) is lassoed into the drama, drama that he had cut out of his life years ago (or was it the other way around?). There are some fabulous scenes between Root and Close, and Close and Hennings, that punctuate how addiction has a ripple effect on those that are even peripherally close to the addict.
Then, inexplicably, the film introduces tired subplots that don't need to be there. Molly's sister (Carla Gallo) is introduced in a clunky way, as are Molly's two children and their father, Sean (Joshua Leonard). Suddenly there is a pregnancy sub-story. These sort of melodramatic waves only act to rock the boat, and seem to appear every time the ship starts picking up steam.
When you notice imperfections in a film, they often times begin to pile up, where as in a "better" film, you can live with them more. Kunis, who gives a brave, raw performance has chemistry with Close but looks nothing like her at all...which is totally OK since we never see the father...until we see the father and we learn that Kunis appears to be cast as the daughter without realistically resembling a child that could be created between Hennings and Close. Maybe this bothersome details is a sign that things weren't working overall, since I may not have noticed it otherwise.
I was also annoyed by inclusions in the script where characters had to occasionally say things like, "One day down, three to go!" just to remind us that they are living within a film called "Four Good Days." Whenever a movie reminds you of its title within the movie itself, that's never a good thing.
There was a lot to like about "Four Good Days," and just because it covers ground that other films have before it, it doesn't in and of itself make it a bad movie. "Four Good Days" is not a bad movie. It just also isn't a good movie, in that it could have - and perhaps should have given the talent involved - been better.
Run Time: 1 hour 40 minutes.
Starring: Mila Kunis, Glenn Close, Stephen Root, Carla Gallo, Michael Hyatt.
Co-Written and Directed by Rodrigo Garcia ("Last Days in the Desert," "Albert Nobbs," "Mother and Child," "Passengers").
"Four Good Days" is available on Friday, April 30th, 2021.
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