The Sandra Bullock Files is a series that looks at the films of Oscar-winning actress Sandra Bullock, all the way from her debut in 1987, to her two major 2018 releases, Ocean’s Eight and Bird Box.
2000 was a productive year for Sandra, one of the best in her career yet. She made three decent to great films in 2000, producing her first feature with Gun Shy, delivering her best dramatic performance to date in 28 Days, and producing and starring in the blockbuster hit Miss Congeniality, which has since become one of the definitive goofy comedies of the early 2000s. She would star in three more films again in 2002, to middling success; in 2009, she also had three films released, but despite starring in two of her biggest hits, she still had to account for the disastrous All About Steve. No, 2000 was a great year for Sandra, and while 28 Days is in no way a masterpiece, it’s a solid film that gave Sandra her most complex role to date.
The best material in 28 Days is its opening twenty minutes, when Sandra, playing an alcoholic thirty-something named Gwen, races to her older sister’s wedding, accidentally destroys the wedding cake, then drives a limo straight into a house. We immediately transition to a significant time later, when she arrives at a rehab clinic. She’s cranky and bitter and hates to be there, but when she faces potential jail time, knowing that both her physical and mental health are deteriorating, she finally starts to change into the person she was always meant to be — a smart, sober person with the capability of leading a happier life.
These early moments — of Gwen drinking and going wild, and of dealing with the early aftermath of her painful detoxing — allow the actress to stretch her acting muscles more than she ever had up until that point. In Love and War was Sandra’s first starring role in a drama, but the film didn’t allow her to create an interesting character, while Hope Floats was the first drama she made that allowed her to showcase highs and lows of emotions on screen. But 28 Days is arguably the first film Sandra made that showed us what she would be capable of down the road in films like Infamous, The Blind Side, and Gravity.
One of her best scenes in 28 Days takes place in front of her counselor’s office. Director Betty Thomas allows the action to play out mostly in one long take, as Gwen shakes and begs the man (a low-key Steve Buscemi) to let her stay at the clinic and not be transferred to the local prison. It’s a heartbreaking scene that rings true. She’s also fantastic in a brief, well-constructed scene that finally brings her and her older sister (Elizabeth Perkins) together, with her trying not to cry until she can’t hold the tears in anymore.
The movie as a whole, however, never fully comes together, and too much of the later half falls flat. The movie is chockfull of great actors, especially, as her eccentric British boyfriend, Dominic West — with whom Sandra has terrific chemistry. Unfortunately, when the film enters its second hour, there’s too much going on, with Gwen flirting with bad boy Eddie (Viggo Mortensen), a long-ish subplot that goes nowhere, and Gwen trying to enrich the pained life of her soap-opera-obsessed roommate (Azura Skye), a subplot that ends in tragedy but then is never referenced again. While the opening scenes are fresh and funny, so much of the later part of the film gets bogged down in too many storylines and characters and revelations, and after awhile it all starts to look and feel like a TV movie, especially with the corny happy ending involving Gwen raising a horse’s hoof.
28 Days has its flaws, and, like Gun Shy, the movie hasn’t aged very well. But it’s entertaining enough, especially the first half. If you can survive the never-ending Mortensen subplot and the longwinded and lame soap opera spoof, you’ll enjoy one of Sandra’s more effective dramatic performances. The material could have been stronger — a surprise given that Susannah Grant, who wrote the fantastic Erin Brockovich, penned the script — but 28 Days is still worth a second look for Sandra fans.
Best Scene: Sandra crashes a limousine into a house.
Best Line: “I’m having the worst damn day of my whole damn life! So if it isn’t too much to ask of you people, will you back the fuck off!”
Sandra won the 2000 Bambi Award for Best Film — International.
Sandra spent time in a rehab clinic to prepare for this role.
Sandra drank a triple espresso before any scene that required her character to have uncontrollable shakes.