Film: Days of Wine and Roses

Days of Wine and Roses is a 1962 drama about a couple who drink to compensate for their loneliness. Adapted from a 1958 Playhouse 90 teleplay, the film was directed by Blake Edwards, and stars Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick. Henry Mancini composed the Academy Award-winning title tune.

PR executive Joe Clay (Lemmon) is a "social drinker" who meets secretary Kirsten Arnesen (Remick). She is initially a teetotaler, but Joe introduces her to alcohol via Brandy Alexanders, cocktails of brandy and chocolate liqueur, and soon both are drinking regularly. They marry and have a daughter, Debbie, but their addiction to alcohol deepens. Joe's performance at work suffers, leading to his demotion and eventual termination, while Kirsten accidentally starts a fire in their apartment while drunk that nearly kills her and Debbie.

Joe decides they both need to go sober, so they begin working for Kirsten's father (Charles Bickford), a landscaper, but their sobriety is short-lived, and they soon fall Off The Wagon. After smashing up one of Mr. Arnesen's greenhouses looking for a hidden bottle of liquor, Joe is committed to a sanitarium, and upon his release, he is persuaded by recovering alcoholic Jim Hungerford (Jack Klugman) to begin attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Jim warns Joe that his commitment to sobriety must be sincere and total, even if this means leaving Kirsten, who is uninterested in giving up alcohol.

After Joe has been sober for a year, becoming a responsible father to Debbie and holding a steady job once again, he tries to make amends with his father-in-law, who instead rebukes him for getting Kirsten hooked on booze. Joe learns that Kirsten has been disappearing for long stretches of time and picking up strangers in bars, indicating that her alcoholism is as bad as ever. Late one night, she visits Joe and Debbie to attempt a reconciliation, but Joe tells her that until she can join him in quitting drinking, they can never be in a stable relationship. Kirsten continues to deny that she is an alcoholic, but admits that she can't stand how the world looks when she is sober. As she leaves, Joe tries to reassure Debbie that if he could give up drinking, her mother might manage it as well.

This movie contains examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Both Kirsten and Joe become unable to function without a steady supply of alcohol.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Joe eventually gets sober, but Kirsten doesn't, and they break up.
  • Descent into Addiction: Joe arguably had a head start on Kirsten, but both deteriorate to the point that the only thing that matters is alcohol. Joe gets past it, but Kirsten doesn't.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: At the end of the film, Kirsten admits that she "can't get over how dirty everything looks" without alcohol.
  • Mistaken for Prostitute: Joe first meets Kirsten when he mistakenly hires her to serve as "entertainment" at a client's yacht party.
  • Off The Wagon: Joe and Kirsten try to quit alcohol while working for Kirsten's father, but late one night, in one of the film's more harrowing sequences, Joe gives in to temptation and ransacks a greenhouse looking for a hidden bottle of booze.
  • Tropaholics Anonymous: The film was one of the first to show an alcoholic getting help with addiction through Alcoholics Anonymous.