Updated: Jun 17, 2020
A couple that are very successful in their jobs and at the same time have a drinking problem try to manage their love life, their social life and their jobs.
One of the most striking elements of this sobering (no pun intended) comedy drama is the degree to which it (successfully) leans into its comedic aspects, when its core journey is anything but funny. Opening with T.J Miller’s Drake and Lizzy Caplan’s Lindsay absolutely wasted at a dinner party with old college friends, the film outlines the thematic paradox at its core. Lindsay and Drake should be where their college friends are, but the film outlines clearly why they have chosen not to be.
With a generous serving of story in a script by Miller and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, translating into a 25-minute runtime, the film invests in our two central characters, demonstrating in detail how they continue to function at a high level both socially and professionally while being hammered all day long. It also highlights the fact that they clearly cannot continue this way.
By barely a hair, Lindsay is the more responsible of the two, actually laying down rules they have to follow if they are going to get blind drunk and also expressing concern whenever they encounter anything resembling consequences for their actions. An intriguing aspect of both Lindsay and Drake is the fact that the script allows them to be incredibly smart, even amid their inebriation.
Establishing empathy for two people so deeply irresponsible is very much a team effort. Between the high levels of emotional intelligence on display in the script and the semi-mockumentary tone employed by Vogt-Roberts, a tone is struck that lays bare the honesty of just how much fun Drake and Lindsay are without shying away from the fact that they are deep into a journey towards self-destruction. Miller and Caplan take the on-paper complex characters to another level, with Caplan in particular having to go toe-to-toe with Miller’s recklessness but still believably convey her absolute terror of where they are headed once circumstance strips the comfort of alcohol from her.
With a short this long, Vogt-Roberts’ direction alongside Josh Schaeffer and Dan Schalk’s editing set a pace to the film that does not allow it to meander. This is an element as crucial to keeping the audience invested as Caplan and Miller’s hilariously endearing and unflinchingly honest performances.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about this film is that it manages not to be preachy or judgemental, instead opting to show a genuine character journey. As a passenger along for an at times bonkers and at other times deeply disturbing ride, you are never encouraged to judge Drake and Lindsay (despite plenty of opportunity to do so) and their motivations are clear. Where other films may easily have veered into didactic morality storytelling or screwball comedy, in making a clear distinction between approval and empathy, Successful Alcoholics succeeds in providing a perspective-expanding and genuinely funny short film experience.
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Studio: Miller Vote Roberts | Year: 2010 | Genre: Comedy | Duration: 25 mins | Suitability: Mature - Contains strong language and depictions of alcoholism