Jack and Kirsten Clay (Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick) may think they’re as charming and fun as Nick and Nora Charles, but they’re more like Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend: manipulative, deluded, and desperate. Of course, quitting drinking, like drinking itself, is easier with a buddy. Jack hopes Kirsten will be his buddy, but having hooked her on hooch in the first place, Jack finds himself helplessly unable to drag Kirsten back to sobriety with him. His dry ally ends up being his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, Jim (Jack Klugman, doing hard-boiled yet earnest, as was his specialty).
Half a century on, Wine and Roses is still considered one of the most devastatingly unflinching movies about alcoholism, up there with Lost Weekend and Leaving Las Vegas. Director Blake Edwards, who’d play drunkenness for laughs in 10 and Blind Date, treats the perils of the bottle without a trace of humor or escapism here, and he gets Lemmon and Remick to deliver some of the finest performances of their careers.