Jewish actor Mila Kunis shines in ‘Four Good Days’ but story is weak

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Courtesy: Vertical Entertainment

DAN BUFFA , SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

Addiction tales are a dime a dozen these days in Hollywood, each of them trying to rehabilitate a particular character through extraordinary methods. All of this takes place routinely in two hours or less, with the lasting images being drawn up in some kind of hopeful message.

Based on Eli Saslow’s (who gets a screenplay credit here as well) Washington Post article, “How’s Amanda? A Story of Truth, Lies, and American Addiction,” Rodrigo Garcia’s “Four Good Days” takes through the final detox hours of Molly (Mila Kunis), a 31-year-old drug addict trying for the 15th time to get clean. In order to do that, she will need the help of her mother, Deb (Glenn Close), who has already burnt through two nerve endings trying to save her daughter’s life. After the initial detox, and before she can get a shot that would stop all drugs from entering her system, Molly has to stay clean for four more days. That’s like asking a dog to not lick its nose for five minutes.

At one point, Deb compares her daughter’s resistance to recovery to the deadly drug, heroin, saying she’s the only thing more unstoppable than the actual drug. That’s where their relationship sits as Garcia’s often-morose and by-the-numbers rehab tale begins. Stuck in the middle is a neglected husband (Stephen Root, getting to stretch a little) and sister (Carla Gallo), people on the outside waiting for Deb to finally pull up and leave this particular piece of personal wreckage behind. As Root’s Chris puts it, if Molly comes into the house, a bomb will go off in his wife’s life.

If there’s a reason to see this movie, let’s call it the acting from the leads. Kunis hasn’t challenged herself like this in years, looking nearly unrecognizable with bleached blonde hair and missing teeth. She nails the jitters and general appearance of an addict. It’s not award-worthy or astounding work, but proof that the actress can hold her own with a pro like Close and disappear into a part.

If you were exhausted or disgusted by Close’s Oscar and Razzie-nominated performance in Ron Howard’s ill-advised “Hillbilly Elegy,” her work as Deb should restore some of the balance. She adds resilience, a fiery wit, and an honest yet compassionate take on a woman who has fought drugs just as much as her daughter. Eight Academy Award nominations are proof that she can play just about anything, but her bread and butter is taking a role like this and making it special. Close doesn’t stretch here, but her work grounds a problematic film.

What’s the main issue here? The screenplay dances between hope and dread. The script excels in the first half of the story, setting up the house as a steel cage match of sorts to the two embattled women. Will they both make it out of this endeavor with sanity and safety, or just one? There’s a good use of drama and another chance to take a swing at the perils of drug use and its entrapment on not only the user but the entire family of the user. Since so many movies have been over this terrain before and it’s a particularly grim territory to create in, it’s just hard to stand out. But the performances make it worth staying to the end of “Four Good Days”–even if the third act bogs everything down in movie magic.

The number of scenarios that can play out with a young woman trying to get clean is limited, and Garcia’s tale loses a good amount of its power in the end because it tries to get overly hopeful and abandons the realism of its subject matter.

Bottom Line: Come for the performances, especially Kunis. But don’t expect any magic in the end here.