Four Good Days occasionally flirts with authenticity and pathos, but is mostly content to crank up the melodrama and hammy acting to deadening effect.
The end credits to Rodrigo García’s addiction drama Four Good Days are accompanied by a song produced specifically for the film itself, written by Diane Warren and performed by Reba McEntire. That should tell you everything you need to know about the tenor of this particular project, a film that attempts to split the difference between the unbridled emotionalism of Beautiful Boy and the narrative soap operatics of Ben Is Back, and winds up firmly planted somewhere in Lifetime territory. García has made a career out of female-driven stories with steadying naturalism that tends to balance his more maudlin tendencies. His best films — e.g. Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her, Nine Lives — are ambitious, sprawling ensemble pieces that reveal how the bonds of womanhood connect seemingly disparate characters in their everyday struggles. One could see Four Good Days perhaps working as part of such a multi-story structure, as a good 30 or 40 minutes is all that is necessary (and advisable) to tell its particular tale. Unfortunately, the feature-length running time here allows García to indulge in his worst instincts, as the heavy-handed metaphors and actorly histrionics pile up almost comical effect.
Glenn Close stars as a middle-aged, suburban mother named Deb whose drug-addicted daughter, Molly (Mila Kunis), has once again returned home with the promise of getting clean. Burned numerous times before, Deb finally agrees to help her daughter once she checks herself into a detox center and promises to commit to an opioid antagonist program that will hopefully inspire her to put her life back on track. The titular four days refer to the time period between Molly’s exit from detox and the day on which the antagonist will be administered, with Deb watching her daughter like a hawk to ensure she stays clean. Given that setup, Four Good Days is fairly situated as a would-be actor’s showcase, with the majority of the film focusing on Deb and Molly’s strained relationship as they rehash past transgressions and struggle to start anew. To that end, Close and Kunis certainly give committed performances, which is the baseline for this kind of thing, and it’s in the quiet moments between the two that the film actually musters some pathos.
But to the detriment of the film and its dual lead performances, García pitches everything in a key of melodrama that fosters an environment of scenery chewing — which shouldn’t surprise given the arch shape that both addiction dramas and deglammed performances often take. This is a film that essentially amounts to little more than two people yelling at each other for a large amount of time, and after awhile, all the hamminess only works to deaden the viewer’s emotional response. Scenes such as Kunis giving a speech about addiction to a group of high school students, or Close going full Shirley MacLaine a la Terms of Endearment as she verbally destroys a hospital staff for refusing to help her daughter, basically scream Oscar reel, and chip away at the authenticity that García occasionally captures. One particular sequence, involving Deb’s journey through a heroin den, is especially perplexing, as we’re subjected to such horrific sights as a drugged-out young woman getting sexually assaulted, yet García ends it on an odd note of comedy, the punchline being that Molly is embarrassed at her mother’s (perfectly understandable) hysteria. The film itself opts for an ending of glorified wish-fulfillment, a development that, while not entirely surprising, still reeks of a filmmaker hedging his bets. Four Good Days ultimately amounts to 100 middling minutes, and wallows in the type of schmaltz that would make even Diane Warren herself wince.