‘Four Good Days’: Mila Kunis Transforms Herself Into a Portrait of Addiction
The opioid epidemic consumes the life of a mother, Deb (Glenn Close), in the movie “Four Good Days,” but it is not her who is the addict. It is her 31-year-old daughter, Molly (Mila Kunis), who has been struggling with heroin and meth addiction for over a decade. She shows up at her mother’s door one fateful night, strung out and declaring her wish to get clean. This is not the first time she has done this, and not even the tenth time, but after an agonizing night, Deb opens the door and drives her to detox. But the three-day program is not even half the battle, and this emotional drama follows the duo as Molly struggles to maintain her fragile sobriety under her mother’s watchful eye. After four days clean, she is eligible to get a shot of naltrexone, a drug that would prevent her from getting high and possibly allow her to take back her life.
“Four Good Days” is based off of the Washington Post article “How’s Amanda? A Story of Truth, Lies and an American Addiction” by Eli Saslow. The journalist went on to adapt his article into a screenplay alongside director Rodrigo García after he was contacted by García and producer Jon Avnet. García recently took a break from filming “Santa Evita,” an upcoming limited series about Eva Perón, in Buenos Aires to jump on a Zoom call with Entertainment Voice. He recalled how he was drawn to the subjects of the article, mother Libby Alexander and daughter Amanda Wendler, and their personalities. The article started deep into Amanda’s journey with addiction. “It was an eleven-year history of problems, and the women were so tired of each other. It was refreshing that it wasn’t a story full of goodwill.” The two women went on to open up their lives to García, and the result is a film with a grounded feel.
It’s fair to say that Deb is sick of Molly, as she has repeatedly broken her trust and even stolen from her during past attempts to dry out at her house. But she is her daughter, and from the moment she reappears on her doorstep, the internal struggle that is brewing inside her is clear. She manages to find the strength for another go-around, thus beginning several days of her being on edge. Close gives another stunning performance, and gets her emotions across so well even in scenes with little to no dialogue. In one memorable scene, she goes into a silent panic attack after she realizes she left her wallet at home with Molly while out to lunch with her other daughter (Carla Gallo), really driving home her fears as the caretaker of someone who could flee and shoot up drugs in a ditch somewhere.
García previously directed Close in “Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her” and “Nine Lives.” “She’s easy to work with,” he revealed. “I say she has two brains, one that is totally rational, analytical, just all about thoughtfulness and intelligence, and then she can put all that aside when it comes to shooting and really be in the moment and draw from her feelings and instincts. Someone asked me, ‘Oh, you have a shorthand with her?’ I said, ‘Yeah, the shorthand is she’s good.’”
Molly, meanwhile, has her own frustrations with her mother, and she has difficulty grasping why she insists on keeping a tight leash on her, even putting an alarm on the door so she can’t sneak out during the night. Kunis gives a transformative performance here as this woman struggling to gain control of her life, not only for herself, but for her two children who currently live with her ex, Sean (Joshua Leonard). With her bleached hair, blemished skin and rotted teeth, Molly bears little resemblance to the glamorous woman most people think of when they think of Kunis.
García spoke about Kunis, whom he has been a fan of since her “The ‘70s Show” days and has long admired as both a comedic and dramatic actress. Both he and Avnet, who previously produced “Black Swan,” a film in which Kunis co-starred, had a hunch that the actress would be a perfect fit to play Molly, and their instincts paid off, as she went above and beyond to give an authentic performance.
“A lot of the physical transformation was led by her and her hair and makeup team… She just made so many good choices, not just with her performance, with the tone, but with [portraying] the person who is there but not really there. It’s not her who’s there. It’s the drug-seeking person who’s there. I’m not surprised. I thought she would be wonderful, but she really surpassed my expectations.”
“Four Good Days” also features an important conversation about the root causes of addiction. Deb repeatedly blames the medical establishment for prescribing Molly a refillable painkiller prescription after a minor injury as a teenager, but it may possibly go deeper than that. She carries a lot of guilt with her for taking off for a few years when Molly was still in high school. While this is definitely Close and Kunis’ movie and there are plenty of great duologues between the women, one of the most emotionally impactful scenes involves Deb with her husband, Chris (a terrific Stephen Root). After taking a backseat for most of the film, he offers his wife some tough truths at a much-needed moment.
The four days culminates in Deb making a tough choice, one that will likely divide viewers. These final scenes before the epilogue come straight from Alexander and Wendler’s real life. “That was one of the things in the article that interested me, how a very smart, sensitive, tough woman, tough mom, could be so beaten down to make a pretty bad choice just out of sheer exhaustion, eleven years of exhaustion.”
“Four Good Days” releases April 30 on VOD and in select theaters.