Synopsis: A mother helps her daughter work through four crucial days of recovery from substance abuse.
Stars: Mila Kunis, Glenn Close, Stephen Root, Joshua Leonard, Rebecca Field, Chad Lindberg, Michael Hyatt, Sam Hennings
Director: Rodrigo García
Running Length: 100 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: Bless her long-suffering Oscar-less heart but Glenn Close is a trooper, ain’t she? An eight-time Academy Award nominee, Close has had the good fortune to land meaty roles in more than a few unforgettable classics and deservedly earned her polite accolades for her efforts. What she hasn’t brought home yet is that one piece of golden hardware many think she’s toiled long enough for. While she could have won it early on for her supporting work in The Big Chill or in a more daring choice like Fatal Attraction, she very nearly grazed the glory in 2017 with The Wife. That film definitely wasn’t her best work but the general consensus was that she was good enough to make the honor not feel totally like a sympathy nod. Then along comes Hillbilly Elegy and a less subtle role Close seemed to gnaw on hoping it would attract the right kind of attention. Sadly, again it was not meant to be.
While Close continues to hold out hope of a Sunset Boulevard musical film adaptation (for real, get going on that Hollywood! Close will devour that role and give you the Oscar performance you’ve been wanting all along!), until that happens, we’ll have to settle for seeing her in smaller titles like Four Good Days, rolling into theaters this weekend. An indie drama centered on drug addiction that could have gone so maudlin and wrong it winds up being a better showcase for Close than Hillbilly Elegy ever hoped to be. Heck, she even gets to wear another slightly questionable wig and manages to pull it off.
Close stars in this adaptation of an article from the Washington Post penned by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Eli Saslow. Though it changes the names and location of that original piece, by and large it sticks fairly close to the true story of a heroin-addicted daughter (Mila Kunis, Bad Moms) who returns home to her mother (Close, Guardians of the Galaxy) seeking shelter where she can detox. Having been on this ride before with her daughter (thirteen times, we later learn), Deb initially refuses to let Molly back into her life or into her home but after some convincing that Molly is serious about her choice, she drops her off at rehab and hopes this will be the stay that takes.
Coming out of detox, Molly is told about a treatment that would be able to combat the sensation of getting high, a shot given once a month but only if the person has no drugs currently in their system. To be safe, the doctor wants her to wait another four days to let her last fix work its way out. Needing a place to stay so she doesn’t relapse in that short time, Deb agrees to let her stay with her and and her new husband (Stephen Root, Bombshell) and mother and daughter spend the next several days reconnecting over past traumas and mending bridges both had a say in tearing down.
Those expecting Four Good Days to be one of those Lifetime Television Movies will be in for a nice surprise because Saslow and co-writer/director Rodrigo García’s script isn’t as one dimensional as it might appear to be. Yes, it practically goes through a checklist of required items in these sort of films (parent doesn’t trust, parent learns to trust, parent gets burned, child feels bad, everyone cries, lessons are learned) and there’s enough motivational quotes to make a slew of school cafeteria posters, but there’s a deeper being worked through that’s far thornier. In addition to showing us the outcome of years of addiction, García (Albert Nobbs) is also addressing issues of enablement and accountability and that’s what winds up setting Four Good Days apart from the crowd and giving its two leading actresses many opportunities to shine.
What has always been so depressing about Close not winning an Oscar all this time is that she easily was first runner up for a number of these races. Her training and commitment to the work makes her an ideal actress to convey empathy we can relate to. I wouldn’t call her character dowdy but Close clearly understands where this part-time esthetician chooses to direct her energy and so we feel every weight she carries around from her life so far. I’ve always had a fondness for Kunis (another actress that nearly made it to the Oscars with her role in 2010’s Black Swan) and am glad to see her turn up so successful in a part that is saddled with a lot of extra business which might overtake someone unable to handle it all. The hair, the gait, not to mention the teeth (oh, the teeth!), could have all been pieces Kunis used to do the work for her but she goes beyond those outward tools and finds Molly from within. Watch for the moment when her two young children are visiting and she’s playing a video game with her son that gets heated. There’s a moment shared between the two of them that could go either way and you hold your breath because you know what’s she’s feeling and how she wants to react…Kunis shows it all in the smallest flutter of her eyes and doesn’t have to say a word.
Together, Close and Kunis are dynamite and, as I imagine it would be for their characters, it’s hard for anyone else to get between them. Root’s role is reduced to pretty much a cameo and you’ll start to wonder if Close is still married because he vanishes for so long. There’s a nice, but brief, scene between Deb and her other daughter (Carla Gallo, We Bought A Zoo) and the contrast between their relationship and the one she has with Molly is clearly defined by Saslow and García but not in a cloying way. There’s a number of good supporting performances, actually, even down to Michael Hyatt (The Little Things) as a member of Deb’s support group for mothers of addicts.
Released by a small studio with little advance fanfare, Four Good Days is the type of film I wish Close would be championed for and encouraged to make more of. Same goes for Kunis. Close has more experience in this arena but the realism without heaps of sentimentality is a refreshing change of pace for family dramas centered on drug abuse. Ending with a Diane Warren song (another Oscar nominee for a song from The Life Ahead that went home empty-handed this year) sung by Reba McIntire that’s pretty much in line with most Warren ballads of late, the entire movie exceeds expectations with both actresses making it absolutely worth a watch.