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Average: 7.69%
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Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 7 user ratings

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Clean and Sober
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by Jack Sommersby

"Michael Keaton Proves Again He's Got the Right Stuff"
4 stars

A year before debuting as Batman on the silver screen, Keaton gave a career-best performance in this affecting, character-oriented piece.

Michael Keaton is sensational as Daryl Poynter, a hotshot real estate broker whose cocaine addiction has gotten him into quite the pickle: he's embezzled ninety-two-thousand dollars from the company escrow account, of which fifty-two thousand has been lost in the stock market; his credit cards are maxed out; and a woman he picked up at the mall has overdosed in his bed, prompting the police to tell him not to leave town until further notice. Of course, Daryl does try to skip town, but with little money he's unable to; in an attempt to escape his problems, he checks himself into a rehab center under the guise of an addict only to discover, despite his repeated denials, that he really is one. While one could hardly deny that the story possesses a made-for-TV template, one could also be hard-pressed at finding the film anything less than emotionally complex and compelling thanks to sharp dialogue, the superb handling of individual sequences, and powerful performances that coalesce into an organic overall whole. Clean and Sober is episodic without ever turning enervating, and, refreshingly, the characters don't fall into stereotypical ruts -- they're vivid and truthful, as if these roles had never been played before. It's not a harrowingly disturbing piece of work like, say, Harold Becker's The Boost or a wicked black comedy like Gus Van Sant's Drugstore Cowboy; rather, it's much more contemplative and measured, taking its time to introduce and deepen the characters so we sense that we're watching these people change -- for better or worse -- right before our eyes, with very little in the way of fancy-pants filmmaking artifice getting in the way and distancing us from them.

The debuting director, Glenn Gordon Caron, may come from a television background, but he doesn't exhibit the usual faults of most of his ilk. Along with the talented cinematographer Jan Kiesser, he gives us a visually astute piece of work where the Philadelphia exteriors and interiors are heavy with rich gray and navy color tones that properly reflect the characters' somber moods; he's terrific at getting us in and out of scenes, often using the amplified sound of objects to segue into a scene and to punctuate the conclusion of one; and within the scenes he's able to locate the dramatic center while allowing enough aesthetic room for the actors to find "truth" within them. There's humor, too. Keaton's alert reserve has never been put to better use (when he puts the moves on some of the attractive women in his group, he's befuddled over being turned down so easily), but he blends it in with the character's other tones, combining technique and imagination so everything Daryl does rings alarmingly true (there's a standout scene where Daryl makes a late-night phone call to his mother to persuade her to take a second mortgage out on her home to help fix his cash-crunch problem, and the emotional whirlwind that ensues -- with the camera staying on Daryl the entire time, sans his mother's voice -- Keaton handles like a bona fide pro). Backing him up ably in the supporting ranks is Morgan Freeman as the group counselor, Kathy Baker as Daryl's love interest, and M. Emmett Walsh as a seasoned sponsor who sees right through every one of Daryl's ploys. Clean and Sober isn't without its faults, with Daryl's one-eighty from addict to nobleman in the second half not fleshed out as properly as one would like, but it's so good for so much of the time that they're miniscule in light of the first-rate contributions that easily overshadow them.

For heaven's sake, if Warner Home Video isn't going to include special features on the DVD, at least give the film a proper letterboxing, even if it's a mere 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

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originally posted: 04/19/06 01:30:47
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User Comments

12/29/17 morris campbell good film about addiction 4 stars
12/24/16 David Lynn Keaton is fabulous. I can feel his rage and got angry with it. 5 stars
7/10/13 Dane Youssef Perhaps one of the most honest and important movies ever made about addiction and recovery. 5 stars
12/03/06 David Pollastrini boring, dull, etc. 3 stars
4/22/06 Pat Frederick Truly enjoyed the movie. Michael is really terrific in this movie. 5 stars
4/20/06 tatum One of Keaton's best performances, a strong film 4 stars
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  10-Aug-1988 (R)
  DVD: 01-Jun-2004



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