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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
For David Schwimmer making a name in feature films has, and will most likely continue to be a tall order, as it's tough to shed an image honed for over a decade. His first post- Friends feature is 2005's Duane Hopwood , a small film praised by critics that was only given a limited theatrical release.
Duane Hopwood is a man who once had it all, including a loving wife (Janeane Garofalo) and two daughters. Now that he's an alcoholic, all Duane has left is his cushy job as a pit boss at Caesar's Palace in Atlantic City. Now divorced, his downfall accelerates when he's stopped for drunk driving with his daughter in the car. A judge goes somewhat easy on Duane, only revoking his driver's license. He uses a bicycle to get to work until his friend and co-worker Anthony (Judah Friedlander) moves in with him and drives him to work. All that Duane wants is to spend time with his kids and get back with his wife, but numerous glasses of scotch and cans of beer always get in the way.
To say David Schwimmer has arrived as a serious actor is a major understatement. His portrayal of a man spiraling downward fast is more than Oscar worthy, as this character's problems only start with dependence. His is a straightforward, dramatic account, but Schwimmer levels things out by bringing a sly sense of humor to the proceedings when necessary. Simply, David Schwimmer blew me away in this film.
Duane Hopwood is tough at times to watch, as any man with children is bound to choke up watching the title character's hardships. Writer/director Matt Mulhern begins his film with a montage of Duane's good times, laughing with his wife and kids before making the pivotal decision of stopping at a bar one nightsoon after, we have a front row seat to his demise. Mulhern's pacing is excellent; so much happens in the film that it's hard to believe the running time is a mere 80 minutes. Judah Friedlander, one of the great character actors, embodies Anthony, who gives Duane enough comedy in his life to keep him afloat. Dick Cavett also pops up as Duane's neighbor, and Janeane Garofalo gives her best performance in years as Duane's wife.
Ending a film like this can be difficult. Mulhern treads this carefully, and pulls off a satisfying and realistic conclusion. One comes away feeling truly sorry for this loving father who is crippled by addiction, as so many people are, and his resulting inability to make rational and intelligent decisions. Hopefully, more people will discover this film now that it's widely available, if only to find that David Schwimmer has the acting chops to potentially enjoy a lucrative movie career. Oh, and who is this Ross guy, anyway? I've already forgotten.
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