Alex Rose and Nancy Kendricks are a young couple who believe they have found their perfect home to start a family in. There is just one problem. An elderly tenant is staying upstairs and won't move out. Alex and Nancy desperately try everything to convince her to leave, but she refuses to move. Soon, their dream home becomes their home of nightmares. Written by
In Danny De Vito's "Duplex," Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore play a young couple who buy a "dream apartment" in Brooklyn whose amenities include everything two upwardly mobile yuppies could possibly want: ample space, solid wood floors, three glorious fireplaces, and, above all, a quiet environment where Alex, a budding novelist, can spend his days writing in uninterrupted peace and quiet. Or so they think for, unfortunately, the place also comes replete with what turns out to be the tenant from hell, a doddering old woman who lives on the second floor and who makes life miserable for the two of them with her continually blaring television and her constant intrusions into their daily lives. Finally driven to the breaking point, Alex and Nancy decide to take matters into their own hands in order to rid themselves of this human pest in any way they can.
"Duplex" is, essentially, a one-joke comedy and, as such, it does suffer from the occupational hazard common to all one-joke comedies of built-in repetitiousness. However, the writing has a surprisingly dark edge to it that lifts the film above the run-of-the-Hollywood-comedy-mill. I must confess to having a certain weakness for dotty old lady comedies, counting among my favorite films the original British classic "The Lady killers" from 1955. Eileen Essel is so delightful as the bete noire of the piece that it's hard not to fall under the spell of both her character and the film itself. De Vito, in a return to the black comedy form that served him so well in "The War of the Roses," keeps the comedy tough and brutal, even if it means bludgeoning the audience over the head a bit in the process. Stiller does his usual shtick as the put-upon Everyman, while Barrymore is able to use her customary cutesiness to full advantage as the sweet little ingénue driven to murder to save her own sanity.
"Duplex" is certainly not everyone's cup of tea, and I imagine that it would not win the stamp of approval from the AARP. Still, if you're in the market for something different in a mainstream comedy, "Duplex" just might fit the bill.
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