In the 70’s there were all these women-in-prison movies. A few years after September 11, there came a bunch of women-struggling-with-addiction movies. The male version was typified by 1988’s Clean & Sober, with Michael Keaton. (It’s available on Netflix.)
Vera Farmiga stars in Down to the Bone (2004). She’s a mother of two who’s been leaning too much on her drug of choice. They’ll take her kids away permanently if she doesn’t succeed at a halfway house treatment center. She engages in inappropriate sex with someone from a 12-step meeting. There’s a lot of 12 stepping. She falls off the wagon. She and her family don’t have a lot of money.
It feels like a very personal film. The numb desperation was palpable. It was filmed in real buildings. They clearly didn’t have a lot of money, but it’s a fine little film. Vera Farmiga is awesome.
Sherrybaby (2006) stars Maggie Gyllenhall as young gal just out of prison. She’d stolen to pay for her heroin habit. Her young daughter is her entire motivation for staying clean. She engages in inappropriate sex with someone from a 12-step meeting. Her family enables her. She falls off the wagon. Both her brother and father live comfortably.
It’s a little gritty. There’s a lot of nudity presented in an unattractive fashion. Maggie Gyllenhall is unflinching in her portrayal. It was filmed in a real house, and there’s some handheld camera work. The actors are great. They don’t dwell much on the 12 steps.
Originally for this post I was going to compare and contrast Rachel Getting Married and Margot at the Wedding. But they pretty much have nothing in common. Margot at the Wedding (2007 – starry Nicole Kidman) is a comedy about neurotic self-absorbed boring people with self-inflicted problems. Jack Black’s character is kinda creepy in a pathetic sort of way. There’s really nobody to be sympathetic towards. It’s an OK movie, but can’t hold a candle to these other 3. And there’s no 12 Step program.
The title of the movie is Rachel Getting Married (2008), and Rachel does get married, but the main character is Rachel’s sister Kym (played by Anne Hathaway), and the movie is all about Kym. Everything is always about Kym. She has a weekend pass from her treatment center. She engages in inappropriate sex with someone from a 12-step meeting. Her father enables her. Her brother died in a car wreck, and she was the driver. Her family is pretty well off.
The entire movie is handheld. The brother of the best man is probably the main camera operator. All the music is live from musicians in the movie, who are there to play at the wedding. It’s filmed in real houses. This is one polished film. The other two movies let you understand how the heroines got lost in drugs, but this one shows you the entire family dynamic that made it unavoidable. The actors are great.
I suggest you see them chronologically, the way that I’ve presented them here. Definitely not back to back. That would be far too stressful.