Saturday, January 13, 2007

Movie Review: Flawless 3 Stars

Even though he single-handedly destroyed the Batman franchise by claiming that his Batman Forever would “have more Battbutt than ever” and then followed through on the claim, it’s hard to completely hate Joel Schumacher. As a screenwriter, he was responsible for Car Wash, and, as a director, he brought us the hilarious dark comedies, Falling Down and The Lost Boys.

Titling a film Flawless is dangerous flirtation with a movie critic corps prone to make puns at a film’s expense. Not without flaws (see?), Flawless is nonetheless a compelling comedy. That’s right, a comedy. Although marketed as a drama, probably to garner Oscar nods for its stars, Flawless is, at its heart, a funny little caper film.

Unfortunately, the attempts at humor mostly fall flat. The overtly “funny” bits are as high camp as they get and seem patently false. On the other hand, the moments between Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robert De Niro, based in truthfulness, are inspired. The comedy that grows out of their honest interactions is real, often painful and very, very funny.

In the film, De Niro plays Walt Koontz, a former hero cop, who attempting to thwart a crime in his ramshackle New York apartment building, suffers a debilitating stroke. Predictably, he goes through a bout of depression, refusing to be seen in his condition. His doctors prescribe a regimen of physical therapy, including singing lessons to rehabilitate his speech. As it happens, Rusty (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a pre-operative transsexual diva lives in his building. Although they start the lessons off completely at odds with one another, as they continue, each eventually discovers the humanity in the other.

Too often, however, this fascinating story is sidetracked by a revolving door of ancillary characters, props at best, meaningless distractions at worse. (Although, the actors are all above-par.) In spite of this, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robert De Niro turn in wonderful performances that insure the audience will maintain interest with material that is otherwise predictable.

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