Walt Koontz, a homophobic guy, ends up with paralyzed vocal cords because of an unfortunate stroke. His therapy includes receiving singing lessons from a neighbor who is not only openly flamboyant but also a pre-op transgenderist. Both of them are equally prejudiced; Koontz against homosexuals and the neighbor against close-minded straight people. Written by
Rob Reser - The Movie Kid - <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Great, amusing performances by Robert De Niro and Philip Seymour Hoffman, but the plot is awkward. **1/2 (out of four)
FLAWLESS / (1999) **1/2 (out of four)
By Blake French:
Somewhere in "Flawless" there is a very good movie, but it is shuttered by the awkwardness of a jumbled plot. There are two separate stories here, and although they are interrelated, either one by itself would be enough for a whole movie. Robert De Niro and Philip Seymour Hoffman make a chemistry-rich pair, both entertaining and amusing, and their screen presence is deserving of a lot of attention-it is tragic that not one but two different stories get in the way of their electric charisma together.
The first storyline details a homophobic former New York City security officer named Walt Koontz (Robert De Niro) who, at the beginning of the movie, has a stroke while rushing to a nearby crime scene. He is burdened with partial paralysis on the right side of his body and speech problems, which can be overcome with the help of his neighbor, Rusty Zimmerman (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a flamboyantly gay drag queen who often practices his musically vocal abilities with fellow friends in drag. Walt's physical therapist recommends singing lessons from Rusty.
The other story involves a criminal named Mr. Z and his attempts to find the incompetent people who stole a large sum of cash belonging to him. As Walt'z recovery continues, and the relationship between him and Rusty becomes more stable, various characters must react to the danger of Mr. Z and his clan of criminals.
What makes this movie so amusing is the interesting personality clash between the characters of Robert De Niro and Philip Seymour Hoffman. I just wish De Niro's character was more active; for much of the production he is nothing but a metronome who is unable to speak or even move much. Some of the elements involving the gay drag queens are hilarious and contribute to the movie's effective mood, and Philip Seymour Hoffman is so deliciously clever as Rusty that I would nominate his performance for an Oscar almost immediately. The dialogue is witty and intelligent ("I need some butch faggots over here."), taking advantage of the situations applicable and giving the movie a surprising emotionally gentle side.
Not much else of "Flawless" is gentle, though. The overwhelming majority of the movie is gritty, rough material intended for adult audiences only. The vulgarism and profanity seemingly never stop and the coarse atmosphere is prevalent. The film is shot in a grainy, high-contrast style, with excellent cinematography and mood development. None of this shocks us, however, since the film's director, Joel Schumacher, was behind such perverse movies like "A Time To Kill," "8MM," and "Tigerland."
"Flawless" has a lot of decent material but it just does not fit together because of the plot distractions. Too much plot has never really been an issue for Joel Schumacher; in "A Time to Kill" and "8MM" he found focus with a central character, here he finds likable traits in two main characters, but allows the plot to control their inspirational qualities. If Schumacher were to reexamine this script with a different perspective, perhaps cutting the Mr. Z plot entirely, maybe it would work more effectively. As it currently stands, "Flawless" is a movie in which the actors work hard to overcome a plot heavy script and they do reign victorious in a few battles, but eventually lose the war.
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