I love films about drinking. Actually no! – there are a lot of films about drinking that I couldn’t give a shit about. I don’t care about The Hangover, or American Pie or any of that boring party-animal USA frat party coming-of-age twattery. More specifically, I like films about alcoholics.
In my drinking days, I think I found a bit of comfort in watching a story where the protagonist was a much worse version of me. I suppose this makes sense – you’re not going to feel as bad about that 2.5 bottles of wine you drank last night if you’ve just watched someone finish a bottle of vodka before lunch – even if it is just an actor playing a character. We know these serious alcoholics exist, and the screen portrayal of them is a nice fuzzy warm reminder that your problem isn’t really a problem. Not compared to those guys, anyway.
Some of my favourite alco movies, according to my (somewhat sketchy) memory, are Leaving Las Vegas (Nicolas Cage plays a guy who goes to Vegas to drink himself to death), Withnail & I (Richard E Grant plays a failed actor), and Nil By Mouth (nasty gritty film about life on a London council estate – written and directed by Gary Oldman).
I’ve not sat down to watch a proper booze-hell movie since I stopped drinking, and to be honest I wasn’t sure these films would hold my interest any more, but on Saturday night my missus was out playing a gig in Peterborough – and so I stayed at home with a pizza and Netflix (is that a euphemism for wanking?) and decided to watch Robert Zemeckis’ 2012 movie Flight.
I’d heard Flight was a cool film, and I’m a sucker for films that have Denzel Washington flying upside-down aeroplanes, but what I didn’t expect to see was such a bare and honest character study of the problem drinker. We’ve seen Washington play the ‘respectable professional with a vice’ character before in Training Day (you ever had your shit pushed in?) but that felt like forced-badassery.
Whip, the character that Washington plays in Flight, feels like the creation of someone who has done their homework. The way he drinks, the way he talks about drink, and they way he LIES about drink all struck a chord with me – and brought back memories of the days I used to spend fighting with myself about whether I should drink tonight, and then how soon it’s okay to start. Inevitably, especially on a weekend, the answers I’d arrive at are:
And once you pop….
There is also a worrying side to my enjoyment of this film. Watching someone load up on beers and whisky at the shop, ready for a one-man weekend booze party, made me feel a bit nostalgic. For a moment I missed it. I missed the bubble of music and booze that I used to love wrapping myself up in. A small, tiny fire lit in my belly – and for half a second I wanted to act on it. I wanted to grab my iPod, and a bottle of something strong, and disappear into my own world for a night.
I didn’t act on it. I don’t think I ever would. But it’s got to be one hell of a commendation for Denzel Washington – an actor that can make someone consider throwing away the sobriety they’ve worked so hard to achieve. Even if it was only for half a second.
Anyway. Cool film. Worth a blast.
Word to your mothers. J