Cliches aren’t inherently a bad thing. I know it sounds odd, but it’s true. After all, as I’ve said before, cliches only get that way because they work. More important than whether a film utilizes a cliche or not is how it does so. Deftly play with them and no one will mind. Lazily throw them out in place of anything substantial and it shows. Unfortunately, Four Good Days falls into the latter category. Despite two very good lead performances, the cliches mount, the filmmaking feels indifferent, and the movie remains stuck in neutral. What easily could have been prestige Academy Award fare instead falls into a rut of mediocrity.
Four Good Days has a pair of strong performances, but not much else. The flick thinks that it’s more of a tearjerker than it is, as well as far more profound than it is. It’s as if the creatives saw the central acting, thought that would substitute for everything else, and just papered over all of the other elements. Sadly, that tactic did not work, and while the acting gets a thumbs up, nothing else here does.
When Deb (Glenn Close) finds her daughter Molly (Mila Kunis) knocking on her door, it’s not a happy reunion. After all, Molly is a junkie, having been addicted to heroin for years. Hoping to stay with Deb, Molly is rebuffed, instead being offered a ride to rehab. There, we learn that this will be the fifteenth attempt at kicking drugs for her. Without much hope, a doctor offers her an injection that will block the effects of shooting up. It’s a potential miracle for her, as well as her family. The catch? To be able to get the shot and not have possibly deadly side effects, she needs to stay clean for four days. In Molly’s world, that’s a life sentence.
Staying with Deb and her second husband Chris (Stephen Root), Molly tries to stay clean. Some interactions with her mother are helpful, while others aren’t. A visit from her ex-husband Sean (Joshua Leonard) and their children offers a mixture of both. Through it all, the tension about whether or not she’ll use looms large. After all, they’ve each been down this road many times before…
Glenn Close and Mila Kunis deserved better than this, given their committed turns. The former did do something a bit similar in Hillbilly Elegy, but it’s never boring to watch a talented veteran bite into a role like this. Close is as good as she was there, albeit in a weaker film here. The latter, however, is where things shine here. Kunis is moving and intense, arguably turning in the finest work of her career. Had the flick been better, she could have been in play for Oscar attention. The aforementioned supporting turns from Joshua Leonard and Stephen Root are solid, while the rest of the cast includes Carla Gallo, among others.
Filmmaker Rodrigo García can’t give Four Good Days any personality, beyond what it already has from Close and Kunis. The underrated and vastly superior Ben is Back took a similar premise a few years ago and crafted something far more compelling out of it. Here, García and co-writer Eli Saslow traffic too much in lazy symbolism. An unfinished jigsaw puzzle does a lot of heavy lifting here, for example, and it’s not even a little subtle. Mostly, this is just generic and forgettable work behind the camera.
Four Good Days is not a bad movie, but it is a bland one. Remove Glenn Close and Mila Kunis from the equation and there would be nothing here. If you love one or both of them, the flick offers up strong work of theirs, but again, they deserved a better final product than this. Alas.