Molly (Mila Kunis) was 17 when she sprained her knee waterskiing. Later that day, she walked out of the doctor’s office with a fistful of oxy. Now Molly’s 31, toothless, and strung out on her mother’s front porch. I just need a place to sleep, she tells Deb (Glenn Close). Deb says no. She’s been here before. She’s been in this situation off and on for damn near 15 years. Molly can spend the night on the lawn. And if she’s there in the morning, well, we’ll see.
Author Nicole Helget has the perfect zinger for moments like these: A mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child. And Molly has mired Deb in the dumps for what feels like a lifetime. There’s a moment halfway through Four Good Days where Molly has breakfast with another one of her daughters, Ashley (Carla Gallo). Ashley’s doing fine, stressed and tired, but who isn’t? She’s even has a new boyfriend and looks excited to tell Mom all about it. But Mom is elsewhere: She’s back at the house with Molly. Deb’s always been with Molly. She’s been with her through good nights and bad, relapses galore, and 14 stints at detox. She probably even thinks she knows everything there is to know about Molly. But when she finds out that there’s a key component to Molly’s life that’s been kept from her, you can see her heart break.
Close shines in those moments. She shines a lot here, but not everywhere. Kunis does, too, but there are too many moments where the material lets them both down. Four Good Days is one-half good movie, one-half bad, with lackluster photography and a forgettable score to boot. Some scenes feel real, like the small moments between Molly and Deb inside Deb’s Riverside home—a bit of set dressing that’s top-notch—or the detox clinic with a drug dealer parked outside. That seems like a tidbit gleaned from Eli Saslow’s 2016 Washington Post story, “How’s Amanda?” with Amanda trying to get clean at a 12-step meeting. She’s there to find god but finds more dealers instead. When you’re an addict, it seems like your addiction is never far from reach.
Four Good Days could have used more of those moments. The script makes passing remarks to Deb’s drinking, Ashley’s eating—“They make me happy,” she tells Deb when she orders fries with her coffee—and Chris’ addiction to the news. Chris (Steven Root) is Deb’s current husband, and he isn’t used much here, other than to be the target of the movie’s best line: “They shouldn’t let men retire.”
Saslow wrote the script with Rodrigo García, who also directs, based on Saslow’s Washington Post story. Four Good Days—the title refers to the amount of time Molly must remain clean before she can receive preventative medication—tries to fall along the lines of the social problem films of the 1930s, but ends up feeling like an after-school special. It’s most evident in scenes where characters say exactly what you wish someone in their situation would say, if only they could stop lying for one second and be honest. That’s asking a lot of an addict, of a controlling parent, of a spouse who’s trying to reinforce the right decision in a very wrong situation. And underlining it with soft piano music does no one any favors.
Four Good Days (2021)
Directed by Rodrigo García
Written by Rodrigo García, Eli Saslow
Based on the Washington Post article, “How’s Amanda?” by Saslow
Produced by Jacob Avnet, Jon Avnet, Rodrigo García, Marina Grasic, Jai Khanna
Starring: Mila Kunis, Glenn Close, Stephen Root, Carla Gallo
Vertical Entertainment, Rated R, 100 minutes, Opens April 30, 2021 in select theaters