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Walt Koontz, a homophobic cop, ends up with paralyzed vocal cords because of an unfortunate stroke. His therapy includes singing lessons from a neighbor who is not only flamboyantly gay but also pre-operative transgender. Both of them are equally prejudiced; Koontz against non-heterosexuals and the neighbor against closed-minded straight people.Written by
Rob Reser - The Movie Kid - <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A small film filled with laudatory intentions and high-powered star performances, "Flawless," is, regrettably, better in its individual parts than as a whole. This most opposite of opposites-attract love stories features a homophobic stroke victim and a less-than-gorgeous drag queen who forge an unlikely friendship as neighbors in a rundown apartment located in a crime-infested section of New York City.
In the early part of the film, writer/director Joel Schumacher fills in the backgrounds of this retired cop and this struggling chantreusse, drawing parallels between their seemingly alien worlds, intercutting, for instance, between the subdued ambience of a straight dance club and the raucous atmosphere of a no-holds-barred transvestite stage performance. As the two neighbors brush up against each other in occasional random encounters in hallways and elevators, we see the seething hatred that comes from the fear of the unknown and the inexplicable that routinely divides human beings one from another. Then Walter Koontz is felled by a stroke which leaves him paralyzed on one side and virtually without the ability to speak. On a doctor's advice, Walter swallows his pride and asks Rusty to give him singing lessons to help him regain his speech.
Thus, the stage is set for a couple of characters who intitially feel they are worlds-apart in their lives, interests and values, to discover the common humanity that lies beneath the surface and actually ties them together. The stroke, as the great leveler, makes Walter, in particular, cognizant of the struggles Rusty has had to undergo as a result of his very noticeable "difference."
If "Flawless" had stuck to this two-character format it might have been a more powerful film. Two elements weigh it down, however. One is the overly familiar and predictable arc the film travels; we simply know well in advance where this story is taking us. More serious are the constant diversions in the form of superfluous subsidiary characters and obscure subplots that keep pulling us away from the movie's center of gravity - which are the dynamite performances of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robert DeNiro who invest both their tricky roles - one dealing with a physical handicap, the other the flamboyance normally associated with the drag queen stereotype - with a subtlety and humanity that could easily have been lost in a welter of method-actor hamminess and hyperbole. Instead, both actors - especially Hoffman - rivet our attention in a way that few of the other elements in the film do. Particularly annoying are a routine drug-dealing subplot and an "action movie" denouement of astounding inappropriateness and stupidity. In a way too, the film is rather schizophrenic in its portrayal of gay people. On the one hand, the drag queens are all made to seem fun and likeable, but, on the other, they also all fit the cliche of homosexuals often presented to the outside world. In fact, the film expends no effort in according similar sympathy to "straight acting" gays, particularly in a scene in which the queens are confronted by a group of gay Republicans in suits who want the "ladies" to tone down their flamboyance for the upcoming gay pride parade. Thus, in attempting to make an important observation about elements of homophobia lurking in the gay community itself, Schumacher, ironically, becomes guilt of the same crime himself.
"Flawless" is worth seeing for the performances of the two lead actors, for its admirable call for tolerance and understanding and for its occasionally incisive encounters between these two very appealing misfits. However, for a far less contrived, far more convincing examination of this subject, check out the Cuban film from a few years back, the delicious "Strawberry and Chocolate." That film achieves the type of thematic unity and gripping emotional power "Flawless," despite all its good intentions, never really manages.
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