Days of Wine and Roses tells a simple moving story: boy meets girl, boy gets drunk, boy gets girl drunk, boy gets girl, boy sobers up and goes to the Alcoholics Anonymous, girl stays drunk forever.
The film has two versatile talented stars. One is back Lemmon, a kind of Red Buttons with muscles. His co-star, Lee Remick, is both beautiful and capable. Their tears are convincing, their laughter infectious, and they play their lines to perfection.
Unfortunately, despite several fine performances, the film has little to recommend it. The story is all too familiar. Lemmon plays Joe Clay, a bright, young, agreeable, on-the-rise public relations man--a role he played in The Apartment. The requirements of his job lead him to compromise his principles, as in The Apartment. "I want to be a public relations man," he tells his girlfriend (Lee Remick) glumly, "not a pimp."
As was The Apartment, Days is shallow and over-simplified. Caricature is substituted for character. "Let's full it out of a hat," says Joe Clay's boss, "and see if it stops." Although Lemmon and Remick are convincing performers, their roles are crippled with cliches, and become not universal, but superficial. "Do you know why I've lost five jobs in the last four years?" Lemmon complains. "No why?" saks Remick. "Booze," says Lemmon.
The director occasionally intrudes a simply, fitful grand of symbolism. In one scene Lemmon and Remick are standing on the shore of San Francisco Bay. Says Remick, who will ultimately be consumed by alcohol, "I like the water--not up close where it's all dirty, but farther out where it's clean. Sometimes, though, it frightens me. I think, a sea monster will rise up and swallow me." In another, Lemmon is spraying Remick's apartment with roach killer. "You'll just get them excited," she objects, and sure enough out rush dozens of her fellow apartment dwellers to protest the action.
The film centers around the problem of alcoholism, but this topic, once brought to the fore, is subject to more manhandling than any other. Beyond a certain point, the story is finally and irrevocably lost, and the movie becomes a dreary plug for the Alcoholics Anonymous, with numbered lessons, scraps of psychology, and frequent slogans. "At first it will be hell, but you can do it." "Your wife will want you to drink along with her; she'll resent your staying sober." "Listen--for twelve years I was drunk, and for fourteen years I've been sober. It's two different worlds."
This film is well-advertised but should be missed.