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A down-on-his-luck, divorced father works the night shift at an Atlantic City casino. When his relationship with his young daughters and ex-wife is jeopardized by a run-in with the law, he struggles to get his life - and family - back together before it's too late. A moving and humorous look at the limits of unconditional love and what defines a family. Written by
Divorce, Addiction, and Other Obstacles in the Path to Happiness
Matt Mulhern is an actor turned writer/director in this amazingly fine first feature film. If DUANE HOPWOOD is any indication of the storehouse of creative and gently profound films housed in Mulhern's mind, we have a major artist being birthed.
Duane Hopwood (David Schwimmer) is a loser: despite the fact that he is one of the most loving beings around, he is plagued by the realities of life - working a testy night job as a pit boss in Caesar's Palace in Atlantic City, failing to be present for a wife and two girls he loves but neglects due to his working hours and that has resulted in divorce, alcoholism, and failure to repair - he just can't make his life work. After a DUI arrest in which Duane has inadvertently jeopardized the life of one of his passenger daughters, is ex-wife Linda (Janeane Garofalo) is driven to prevent visitation rights to a man she recognizes is in truth a loving father who simply can't cope. Duane lives alone until his casino friend Anthony (Judah Friedlander), a would be stand up comic, asks to share Duane's home. Duane's bad luck follows him even when he is trying to give despicable people a fair break at the casino and hence loses his job. He attempts to date a kind Irish bartender Gina (Susan Lynch) but fails that role when he confesses that he still loves his wife. The ultimate blow comes when Linda and her new boyfriend Bob (John Krasinski) decide to move to North Carolina, a fact that means Duane will rarely see his beloved daughters. And his life continues to pall-mall despite all the loving hands offered by the good people around him.
The story has no beginning and no end. It is a slice of life about an Everyman racked by bad decisions, good at heart but unable to control his propensities, and the effects of addiction, divorce, and loneliness on a kind but bumbling soul. David Schwimmer gives a deeply moving performance, one that is so sensitively rendered that it holds mirrors to us all, making us love him as much as the people around him who stand by helplessly by as he spirals down the hole of self-destructive behavior. Janeane Garofalo likewise steps out of her usual silly chubby mouthy roles and gives us an injured but wholly understandable bruised woman: her acting is the finest she has ever given us. The entire cast (with some surprise appearances by some fine actors) is top notch, but in the end the kudos go to Matt Mulhern for offering us one of the best examinations of divorce and modern marriage with an eye that clearly sees both sides of trauma. This is an underrated, superb film that deserves a wide audience. Grady Harp
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