The Lost Weekend is a brutally honest look at the dangers of alcoholism. Even a film as old as 1945 could depict addiction without fear of censorship. The Lost Weekend is so simple, yet so powerful. Quickly becoming one of my top favorite Best Picture winners. Legendary filmmaker Billy Wilder won his first of many Oscars for Best Director. The Lost Weekend also won Best Adapted Screenplay for a script based on the Charles R. Jackson book of the same name. Jackson himself was a struggling alcoholic who wrote from the heart.
It’s shockingly realistic, but the movie does cut out any gay subtext found in the book. Ray Milland gives an all time Best Actor winning performance as Don Birnam. Don is a failed writer with an overwhelming urge to drink. Milland’s desperation is believable, heartbreaking, and even terrifying. Wilder uses a noir aesthetic to play up the more horrific side effects of alcoholism. As Don battles his demons, the people in his life either stay by his side or give up on him.
As the title suggests, The Lost Weekend takes place over the course of one eventful weekend. Don uses his brother Wick to buy booze, urges bartender Nate to fill his glass, hides bottles around the house, leads on Gloria for drinking money, resorts to stealing, goes on a bender, and continually lies to his girlfriend Helen. Jane Wyman gives the second best performance as the only remaining person who believes Don can get better. When a rehab facility fails to treat him, Don even contemplates suicide. The Lost Weekend should be required viewing for anyone struggling with addiction.