Duane Hopwood

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

One of the perils of being known for a particular role is that it’s hard to shed that image. David Schwimmer, like the rest of the cast of “Friends” is not financially strapped for cash nor will he ever be. But as an actor, he’s trying to break the mold of Ross Gellar (his character on “Friends”) that he played for a decade. Of all the “Friends”, Jennifer Aniston seems to have made the most out of the show – though all of them have had their ups and downs. I’m leading up to something, bear with me here…It was nice to see a major star like David Schwimmer in a very low-budget, independent film. Add to that the character he plays is the polar opposite of “Ross”, it was a stretch for him and he did a good job with his role in “Duane Hopwood”. The film was written and directed by Matt Mulhern, himself an actor most remembered for his roles in “One Crazy Summer” and “Biloxi Blues”. What’s most intriguing about the movie is that the director and stars are all mainly known for their comedic performances (Janeane Garofalo plays Hopwood’s ex-wife).

“Duane Hopwood” isn’t an easy movie to watch, any movie that deals with the problem of alcoholism is hit or miss. It’s easy for actors to try and do too much in their “state” and try to ham it up for the cameras. Schwimmer takes the low road and lets us know that his character has a drinking problem, but doesn’t feel the need to rub it in our faces. Duane Hopwood (David Schwimmer) is a casino pit boss at Caesar’s Palace in Atlantic City. He’s divorced and isn’t too happy with his life. He gets pulled over for drunk driving with his daughter in the car and has his license revoked. His only means to get to work is via bicycle. Throughout the course of the movie, we see him try to rebuild his life – trying to reconcile with his estranged wife (only to finally accept that she’s moved on). Like most people with a drinking problem, Duane won’t admit that he really has a problem – yet it’s evident to everyone else. His friend (and later roommate) Anthony (Judah Friedlander) is his inspiration. Anthony wants to be a stand up comedian and it angers Duane that he’s following his dreams.

The real message in the movie is about starting over. I don’t want to give away the ending, but movies about drunks can only end so many ways and most aren’t too satisfying. I have to admit that I was pretty impressed by Janeane Garofalo’s performance. She tends to play the same character in most every movie she’s in and wit her bleached blonde locks, I hardly recognized her. And speaking of the cast, look for Dick Cavett in the small role of Fred another odd casting choice that seemed to work out. I don’t know how personal this was to Matt Mulhern or if he’s had problems with alcohol or substance abuse in the past, but as downtrodden as the script was; the performances were great and made the short running time (83 minutes) spread out. As I mentioned before, the movie isn’t easy to watch but it’s quite rewarding. Recommended.

Video: How does it look?

The movie was obviously shot on a very limited budget and not being a “studio” picture, the production values have suffered a bit. The 1.85:1 anamorphic image looks fairly good for the most part, yet I’ll give the movie the benefit of the doubt in this department. Atlantic City can be a very bleak place, especially in November and the transfer seems to reflect this. Several of the shots lack the crispness and clarity that we’ve become so used to seeing on DVD and while this transfer isn’t necessarily bad, it does leave some things to the imagination. Colors are very washed out for most of the movie, save a few indoor scenes. There are a few scenes that have some artifacting and though watching a movie on DVD can be a great experience, it can also amplify any errors that exist in the transfer. On the whole, not bad but certainly not that great either.

Audio: How does it sound?

Another technical issue is the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. I would most associate this with a mono track, as most of the action that happens is in the dialogue. There are a few scenes in which some extra ambiance is added by the speakers, but not much. Then again, this isn’t the type of movie that relies too heavily on audio. Like the video, the audio is a bit sub par but it’s apples and oranges…

Supplements: What are the extras?

An audio commentary with Schwimmer and Mulhern is a welcome addition to the disc and while it doesn’t delve as deeply into the subject matter as I thought, it was still good. Schwimmer tells of his character, what drove him to do the role, etc. It’s a good track and certainly worth a listen. Also included is the theatrical trailer.

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