Duane Hopwood (2005)

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Duane Hopwood (2005)

Postby justindeimen » Mon Apr 02, 2007 12:42 pm

Duane Hopwood (2005) - Matt Mulhern

There's a certain tenderness that sifts its way through "Duane Hopwood", a post-Friends starring vehicle for David Schwimmer that navigates the tentative dialogue between alcoholism and the dark cloud that hangs not just above the individual, but those who surround themselves around the afflicted throughout their darkest days. Take comfort in them, as they are the saints who prop you up when you're down and show you life's little rainbows over the puddles of rain.

There's considerable sincerity in Matt Mulherns second feature and credit has to go to its cadre of performers who are mainly made up of fairly well known stand-ups and comedians. They shed their onstage personas to become real people and it shows that the understanding they share also allows these actors to have better chemistry among themselves. Schwimmer, in particular, breaks his personal mould and gives a nuanced, careful portrayal of a man teetering on life's edge. His perpetual hangdog exterior allows Duane some measure of sympathy even through the most appalling decisions that he has made.

In one astoundingly bad decision, he drives his youngest child home while drunk and in the process loses the only things that has tethered his life together in an uncaring courtroom that does not deal in circumstances but the cold, hard facts of Duane's unforgivable mistake. That instance proves too much for his wife, Linda (Janeane Garofalo) to handle. She's not an uncaring woman in any respect, just a mother who does not gamble the lives of their two young daughters with the hope of her husband changing anytime soon.

"Duane Hopwood" does not make a caricature out of its titular character, and it does not pile on the disheartening melodrama out of alcoholism. While not concerning us with the issues of why and how Duane becomes who he is, it does specify that it's a whole different world for alcoholics especially the ones deep in denial. It truly excels in crafting a delicate and carefully drawn portrait of an alcoholic who's made mistakes in his life and has to find a way to live through them. Understanding in only a way that comes to those who observe life through fortitude, it's genuine in the sense of showing ordinary people in ordinary situations who react in ordinary ways. They cope and the film is thoughtful enough to refrain from putting cinematic spins on issues that are already inherently interesting.

Thankfully, its mindful of not becoming too much of a downbeat, despairing approximation of Duane's life. Despite everything, he is surrounded by friends and family who still love and yearns for him to be happy. They never forget that he is a good worker, a good father and a good husband cursed with flaws that are slowly taking him over. It's frequent, but low-key sense of humour does hint of the redemption that waits around the corner for the wretched. "Duane Hopwood" is ultimately about picking up the pieces and moving on, and not about fixing what's broken.

Re: Duane Hopwood (2005)

Postby trevor826 » Wed Apr 04, 2007 10:07 am

Well written and considered review Justin, I don't know if I'd actually watch the film though because David Schwimmer along with a few other actors always makes me want to switch the T.V. off.

Cheers Trev.

Re: Duane Hopwood (2005)

Postby justindeimen » Wed Apr 04, 2007 1:47 pm

Thanks Trev. This really is one of those performances that changes the way you view an actor. I'll never watch an episode of his television show without thinking about this film again, in all probability.

On the flipside, by complete coincidence I saw All the Queen's Men (2001) the same day which had 'luminaries' such as Matt LeBlanc and Eddie Izzard in it. An utter disaster of a movie about soldiers in drag at the end of WW2. Perhaps life imitates pop art when LeBlanc takes the sort of movie roles his "Friends" character, Joey, a struggling actor would have taken for a laugh on the television show. One thing I can say is the lush cinematography is its only selling point. But in the end, for a film designated for numerous Gay/Lesbian/Bi film festivals, it's quite astounding that it manages to insult this group of people more often than not. Possibly the worst film I've seen in years.

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