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Rated [R], 111 minutes
Starring Robert De Niro and Philip Seymour Hoffman
Written and Directed by Joel Schumacher

In a run down apartment on New York's lower east side lives a retired security guard named Walt Koontz (Robert DeNiro). It must be an economical place to live, 'cuz the happy homosexual neighbors bug the crap out of the bigoted old man. But there are drug dealers and other criminal activity going on in the building and Walt has his duty. Trying to stop some kind of rip off action, Walt suffers a paralyzing stroke and loses most of his ability to speak.

Walt has no one to fall back on. His social life is limited to what once were called "dime a dance" parlors, all fronts for prostitution. He has few friends. He is a bitter old man who is more than content to stay in his apartment, refusing therapy and getting more angry and bitter as his life plays out. At a doctor's insistence, Walt goes to the one person he detests more than anyone else, a drag queen neighbor/ cabaret performer named Rusty (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

What could have been a run of the mill story about different people learning to accept each other turns out to be a remarkable tale of two people trapped in bodies that are not what they need, and of the friendship that develops as they try to get to where they want to be.

The teen readers are probably sticking their fingers down their throats and preparing dissmail calling me a politically correct [insert slur of choice here] but let me point something out here. Back in the years where I tread the poverty line trying to be an actor, my path crossed that of many gay men, may they rest in peace, and a couple of full time transvestites and they weren't any more comfortable on camera than straight boy Cranky. You can't hire a TV to play a TV on screen, because there is an exaggeration that the camera doesn't like. You need an actor who can a) play the role well and b) make you as an audience member believe what (you're) seeing on screen. Which brings us back to Philip Seymour Hoffman.

In the last three months of calendar year 1999 we will see well over a hundred movie releases, all targeted towards beating the end of the year deadline for Oscar nomination. That means more A-list names and more flicks pushing the kidney busting 3 hours or more time span. What I will tell you about Hoffman's performance is almost identical to what I said about Hilary Swank's work in Boys Don't Cry. Hoffman's performance in Flawless will be one film fans will be telling each other about. It is outrageous. It is sympathetic. It is totally human and illustrates the simple notion that everybody, regardless of how despicable or repellent they may be, needs friends.

Joel Schumacher both wrote and directed Flawless. Long time readers know that I've pretty much despised Schumacher's work, all the way back to Flatliners. This time out, I tip my hat. Flawless is an intimate story of two people who seem to have nothing in common save the air that they breathe.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Flawless, he would have paid...


As we move towards nomination time, Hoffman goes on my list. It may be that Flawless won't move beyond the crowd that patronizes the art house circuit, 'cuz it's that kind of a picture, without the pretentiousness or pomposity that usually accompanies indie flicks. Schumacher laid out a simple story and stuck to it. De Niro and Hoffman both create full characters that are touching and interesting to watch.

Click to buy films by Joel Schumacher
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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2016   by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.