HBO Documentary Films: RISKY DRINKING

Doc-logo2Overview: Nearly one-third of adults in the U.S. engage in problem drinking at some point in their lives. Health professionals assess drinkers at risk on a spectrum ranging from low-risk to an alcohol use disorder that can range from mild to severe. Risky Drinking challenges viewers to recognize when their drinking may be Docs_RiskyDrinking-300x169putting them at risk and offers information that could help millions of Americans lead healthier lives.

Through case studies and expert analysis, the film investigates the broad spectrum of risky drinking at different ages and stages in people’s lives. In addition, addiction experts explain the science behind alcohol use disorder, as well as providing stunning statistics about its prevalence and hazards. From Oscar and Emmy winner Ellen Goosenberg Kent (HBO’s Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 and Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq) and journalist/producer Perri Peltz (HBO’s The Education of Dee Dee Ricks and Remembering the Artist Robert De Niro, Sr.), and presented with support from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. 


Expectations: Consider it a Public Service Announcement. That is the tone that seems to come across here especially from the Overview. Case studies will be examined and the experts will then break it all down for us explaining the different stages of alcohol abuse. It might just make someone reflect on their drinking habits, perhaps even this viewer’s view. It won’t hurt and could be interesting to grasp the new theories about the problem, especially at this time of year.


Gut Reaction: Oops, sorry this is indeed more than just a PSA filled with stats about alcohol abuse and all the signs and habits we need to look for. Thank you Kenzie, Mike Noel and Neal for letting us into your lives to serve as those living examples.

This documentary actually takes this writer back in time in an odd way. HBO hasn’t run too many documentaries of late on this subject, so seeing it play out reminds me of HBO in the early days. Back then alcoholism was a common theme on the documentary front (that and the homeless) until stories from crack houses and drug addiction starting popping up. The abuse may have been an underlying factor in a number of docs, but hasn’t been the main topic if quite a while. Seeing people in that condition can be jarring or, perhaps, frighteningly like looking into the mirror. This film could be a wakeup call for some or just point out the signs of what to look for in the lifestyle and behavior of a friend or loved one. It can be nothing but good to take the hour to watch it.

We all know people that fit into the stages of alcohol abuse seen here. Kenzie serves as our example of the Binge Drinker, the weekend warriors that parties harDocs_RiskyDrinking02-300x200d to the point of becoming an overdramatic hot mess. An HBO presser states she – is a young Denver professional who sometimes binge drinks with her friends on weekends as a social lubricant and to “turn off her brain” after a stressful workweek. During one holiday weekend, on the heels of a difficult breakup, she consumes well over ten drinks a night, leading to an emotional breakdown. She defines a “hot mess” to me. Then there is Dangerous Drinking and Mike epitomizes it. His bio reads that – he tries to build a new life and career in St. Thomas. As his visiting teenage son notes, however, his daily schedule often involves drinking. With his current marriage hanging by a thread after a series of dangerous “drinking incident.” Unwilling to give up drinking completely, Mike participates in a 90-day program to help moderate his alcohol use, but after a relapse, he questions if he’s ready.

Rhonda, who uses alcohol as a “coping mechanism” for the stress of raising a family, and participates in a weekly happy hour with friends to let off steam. She has become increasingly concerned about her friend Noel (pictured)  a divorced mother of two who uses wine as an “escape.” Noel has tipped the balance to show a negative effect. The theory of moderation management, the new theory espoused here, is suggested. Neal is willing to show us all the ‘end game’ for lifelong abuse and it isn’t pretty. None of it is pretty to see. The behavior which is quite common among us can be so destructive. This documentary helps shed a light on it. Take it in like a good glass of liquor.


In Conclusion: I’m certainly not here to preach about drinking and anyone’s intake. But, I can easily get behind a few notions that were reaffirmed through these stories: alcohol use is more acceptable in society than other addictions, but just as dangerous; a quick 12-step program is not for everyone; abstinence is best, but if you can’t then the moderation management theory is an option and lastly that the stories here just might make you stop and think twice this holiday season.

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Next: EVERY BRILLIANT THING debuts Monday, 12.26 at 8:00pm Adapting the one-character stage show of the same name starring British comedian Jonny Donahoe, this poignant film tells the story of a son who creates a list of things worth living for–all in an attempt to raise the spirits of his chronically depressed mother.


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