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18 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Daddy let me go

Author: Oast from United States
27 December 2006

There is a certain freedom when you lose everything you ever cared about in life. It sounds insane, I know. But it simplifies the process of life. It means you can start from scratch... A clean slate if you will.

"Duane Hopwood" (David Schwimmer) first loses his sobriety, then his wife and two daughters, then his job, then his hope and comes dangerously close to losing his will to live. At the custody hearing, he tells the judge that he "needs a reason to stay".

The only thing Duane doesn't lose is the unconditional love of his daughters and the loyalty of a very quirky group of friends.

What is so skillful about this film is the way in which it balances our sympathy for Duane's tragic situation with our understanding that Duane is the cause of his own problems and the only one who can remedy them.

The pivot, around which the film's emotional power revolves, is the quite magnificent transformation of David Schwimmer from the almost unshakable familiarity of his role as Ross on NBC's 'Friends' to this ever so sad and bedraggled ex-husband and father who is desperate to stop the sand slipping through his fingers. This is absolutely a career transforming role that, surprisingly to me, certifies that he has a very promising film career as a dramatic actor in front of him. If enough people see this film, he will be reaping the rewards with great parts for years to come.

Janeane Garofalo also delivers in an atypical role. As Duane's estranged wife, she delicately balances the cold-hearted reality of wanting to move on with her life and the sympathetic understanding of someone who knows him better than anyone else. Her role could so easily have drifted into cynical and clichéd 'mean ex-wife' territory... but this film is too smart to go down that path.

There are some truly fine performances from the supporting cast members. Judah Friedlander & Susan Lynch are both very good as Duane's new support system. Friedlander plays Anthony, an aspiring comedian who becomes Duane's roommate. Lynch is Duane's first girlfriend since getting divorced. Each of them change the pace of the film nicely and add depth and nuance to an already powerful story.

I also want to point out the girls who play Duane's kids. So often I complain that bad performances from kids can ruin the believability of a film... However, Ramya Pratt & Rachel Covey are both splendid here.

This film feels like a cross between "The Family Man" and "Leaving Las Vegas"... an odd combination indeed. But it works on so many levels. I laughed during this film. I shed tears in the final act. I cared about each and every character. It is a tremendously well written screenplay, and it is acted with precision.

This is a small independent feature that really deserves a wide audience. Unfortunately, it will have trouble finding one because it doesn't have a huge publicity campaign behind it or 75 copies lining the shelves of DVD stores. I can only hope that word of mouth and positive reviews like mine will convince a few people to seek this film out. If they do, they will find a diamond in the rough and will be telling all their friends about it too.

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24 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

I love this film!

Author: alaurenw from United States
10 November 2005

I loved this film -- it's very well done with a great performance from David Schwimmer. Schwimmer plays a casino pit boss who gradually goes down hill and hits bottom when he's caught driving drunk with his young daughter in the back seat. It's the wake-up call he needs, though,as ex-wife Janeane Garofalo threatens to take away his visitation rights to his two girls. Schwimmer gradually begins to get it together when he forms an unlikely friendship with Judah Friedlander, who as always is funny and brings some much-needed humor to the film. It's like a wonderful short story with a great cast of characters set in a unique place. I highly recommend it.

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25 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

Boy - does it deserve to be seen!

Author: absmith2-1 from United States
21 February 2006

I saw this in Chicago when it played for a couple weeks. First of all - what happened to this film? Roger Ebert included it in his "Year End Best Of 2005 Movies" list. I guess the distributor - IFC Films - messed it up, because it was one of the best movies I saw all year! David Schwimmer was excellent, and the rest of the cast was too. The writer and director, Matt Mulhern, who is an actor too, has made a movie that will make you laugh and cry, about real people - people you know, people you live with, maybe even you yourself. There are parts of the main character, Duane Hopwood, I think we all can relate to, in the way he struggles to be a good person, but lets his demons get the better of him. And the movie does it without lecturing or preaching, but simply by letting the audience in and telling the story of an everyman who goes to work every day, hoping and praying that the people he loves will continue to love him back. I hope the movie comes out again - boy, does it deserve to be seen! absmith Chicago, Illinois

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14 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Divorce, Addiction, and Other Obstacles in the Path to Happiness

Author: gradyharp from United States
30 April 2006

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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11 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

David Schwimmer blew me away

Author: Kltty from United States
27 December 2006

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 night—soon 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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9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

A beautiful character piece for smart people

Author: Bammerloo from United States
15 May 2006

Duane Hopwood is a film about ordinary people whose problems are no different than yours or mine. Hopwood is a man who loves his wife and wants to be a good father to his children, and is losing everything because of his penchant for hitting the bottle. Hopwood is not a mean or tragic drunk figure. He's simply a sad man whose days are sometimes joyful, oftentimes not. With his drunkenness Hopwood's wife Linda is not callous about it. She understands Duane has a problem. But, she can only put up with so much. And when he drives drunk with one of their daughters in the back seat, she goes to divorce court. What's done is done. Linda is finished with dealing with Duane's alcoholism; now it is about looking out for her (not their) kids' welfare.

David Schwimmer plays Duane Hopwood, and his performance surpasses everything he's ever done on Friends. Television shows are like that. When they become popular it is hard to separate the character from the actor. As Duane, Schwimmer has unfixed the stigma he got from being Ross all those years. He has friends in the film, but he's mostly by himself, trying to live his life in Atlantic City. During the wee hours of the morning he pedals his bicycle to his job so he can work a 3 to 12 shift as a pit boss at Caesars. Why the bicycle? The incident with his daughter in the back seat caused him to have his license revoked. Writer-director Matt Mulhernnails home the point of alcoholism. Those who are addicted to the bottle do not think they're alcoholics. "I drink too much sometimes, but Linda, come on, I'm not a drunk," Duane pleads with his ex-wife. Barflies may get drunk, but that's their thing. Duane endangered a daughter he loves, lost his family through divorce, and still cannot stop himself from going to a bar after getting off at noon. Duane can't control his drinking habits. He either drinks way too much or just too much. Sometimes he doesn't drink at all. Alcohol just wasn't becoming that day.

For all I have written about drinking and alcohol, one might think Duane Hopwood is a dreary movie. Well, it is dreary but not because of the subject matter. The grayness of Atlantic City during the winter gives off a ghost town vibe. It's the off-season for tourists, so the town lacks life. Taking away the obsessive drinking aspect, you are left with a guy who wakes up when many are asleep, trying to be professional working the late-night shift at a casino where customers are sparse, and hating that his one true love is now in love with somebody else.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Shows you life's little rainbows over the puddles of rain

Author: movedout
2 April 2007

There's a certain tenderness that sifts its way through "Duane Hopwood", a post-Friends starring vehicle for David Schwimmer that navigates the tentative dialogue between alcoholism and the dark cloud that hangs not just above the individual, but those who surround themselves around the afflicted throughout their darkest days. Take comfort in them, as they are the saints who prop you up when you're down and show you life's little rainbows over the puddles of rain.

There's considerable sincerity in Matt Mulhern's second feature and credit has to go to its cadre of performers who are mainly made up of fairly well known stand-ups and comedians. They shed their onstage personas to become real people and it shows that the understanding they share also allows these actors to have better chemistry among themselves. Schwimmer, in particular, breaks his personal mould and gives a nuanced, careful portrayal of a man teetering on life's edge. His perpetual hangdog exterior allows Duane some measure of sympathy even through the most appalling decisions that he has made.

In one astoundingly bad decision, he drives his youngest child home while drunk and in the process loses the only things that has tethered his life together in an uncaring courtroom that does not deal in circumstances but the cold, hard facts of Duane's unforgivable mistake. That instance proves too much for his wife, Linda (Janeane Garofalo) to handle. She's not an uncaring woman in any respect, just a mother who does not gamble the lives of their two young daughters with the hope of her husband changing anytime soon.

"Duane Hopwood" does not make a caricature out of its titular character, and it does not pile on the disheartening melodrama out of alcoholism. While not concerning us with the issues of why and how Duane becomes who he is, it does specify that it's a whole different world for alcoholics especially the ones deep in denial. It truly excels in crafting a delicate and carefully drawn portrait of an alcoholic who's made mistakes in his life and has to find a way to live through them. Understanding in only a way that comes to those who observe life through fortitude, it's genuine in the sense of showing ordinary people in ordinary situations who react in ordinary ways. They cope and the film is thoughtful enough to refrain from putting cinematic spins on issues that are already inherently interesting.

Thankfully, it's mindful of not becoming too much of a downbeat, despairing approximation of Duane's life. Despite everything, he is surrounded by friends and family who still love and yearns for him to be happy. They never forget that he is a good worker, a good father and a good husband cursed with flaws that are slowly taking him over. It's frequent, but low-key sense of humour does hint of the redemption that waits around the corner for the wretched. "Duane Hopwood" is ultimately about picking up the pieces and moving on, and not about fixing what's broken.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Starting over

Author: Lljh665 from United States
27 December 2006

One of the perils of being known for a particular role is that its 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 spread out. As I mentioned before, the movie isn't easy to watch but it's quite rewarding.

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9 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

This movie is at a higher level and yet it is so simple.

Author: shareq1310 from United States
28 May 2006

I went to rent a movie the other day and I saw this movie. At first this looked like a really ordinary movie but I had seen David Schwimmer in friends and I wanted to see him act in a different role. This movie was shown in the sun dance festival and I think David shcwimmer has done justice to his role. This movie is for any person who is alive today. This is about your daily life and how you go about it. Everyone has problems and every one tackles with them each day. Duane hopwood has done the same thing here. He has shown his life as it passes by each day. He has shown love for his family. I personally enjoyed this movie. This movie is at a higher level and by that I mean it has got lot of emotions in it and you need to look at each frame by frame to see what I am saying. If you have loved some one or if you are facing any problem in your life or if you think your life is not going where you wanted it to go then watch this movie and you will come to realize that it is not only you but there are a lot of people who have the same problem. This movie is anyones life. I highly recommend this film to all film watchers.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Quietly Brilliant

Author: Rroo99 from United States
27 December 2006

Regarding Matt Mulhern's Duane Hopwood, I've read everything from "quietly brilliant" to "drably unfocused" -- and several insightful things in between. Me, I fall firmly with the former group: This is a mellow-yet-effective character study that exhibits some real poignancy and delivers a stunningly good performance by Friends star David Schwimmer. It's certainly not the flashiest or most exciting indie you'll ever see, but for what it is, Duane Hopwood is a winner.

Schwimmer plays the titular character, an Atlantic City casino employee who seems to be in the formative stages of outright alcoholism. Duane's estranged wife (the also excellent Janeane Garofalo) is clearly doing all she can to focus on her ex's "good side," as the couple share two daughters -- and, despite his problems, Duane's always been a pretty good dad.

But things boil over after Duane is arrested for drunk driving ... while his young daughter lies sleeping in the back seat of the car. Thus begins a herky-jerky, but decidedly downward, spiral for Duane, a guy who's smart enough to realize he's ruining his life -- but just not smart enough to avoid all the potholes.

As an honest and realistic depiction of the ways in which alcoholism can strike any "normal Joe," Duane Hopwood works exceedingly well. Those expecting any sort of 'after-school special sentiment' or Public Service finger-wagging will be sorely disappointed in Hopwood's screenplay. There are no big emotional revelations or huge dramatic screaming matches -- but the flick packs a punch all the same. It works because of its everyman banality, and not despite it.

For such a quiet and unassuming film, Duane Hopwood sure offers a lot of great little ingredients. The Atlantic City setting, for example, becomes a character unto itself, glitzy and interesting on the surface, but cold and isolated beneath. Judah Friedlander offers a colorfully entertaining supporting performance as Duane's on-again off-again buddy, a security guard who dreams of life as a comedian. And every 25 minutes or so, Mulhern and Schwimmer deliver a moment of true heart, sincerity, and intensity ... frankly, I think this is a better "alcoholism" flick than Leaving Las Vegas.

It sure as hell is a lot more subtle, anyway

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