You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Duane Hopwood

What "The Good Girl" did for his "Friends" co-star Jennifer Aniston, "Duane Hopwood" may do for David Schwimmer. Pic gives the under-appreciated actor a full-course role about a character who's surrounded by failure on every side. Script never treats characters as less than human, and pic could find an aud with careful handling.

Duane Hopwood - David Schwimmer Linda - Janeane Garofalo Anthony - Judah Friedlander Gina - Susan Lynch Fred - Dick Cavett Steve - Steven R. Schirippa

What “The Good Girl” did for his “Friends” co-star Jennifer Aniston, “Duane Hopwood” may do for David Schwimmer. Pic gives the under-appreciated actor a full-course role about a character who’s surrounded by failure on every side. Writer-director Matt Mulhern confidently anchors his drama-comedy about an alcoholic Atlantic City pit boss with good writing and sharp dialogue. Script never treats characters as less than human, and, though it ultimately feels slight, pic could find an aud with careful handling.

Opening title montage shows cheerful domestic scenes with titular husband and dad Duane (Schwimmer), his wife Linda (Janeane Garofalo) and their daughters Mary (Ramya Pratt) and Kate (Rachel Covey). These scenes give way to Duane’s shadier side as he gets drunk at a bar.

After Duane is stopped for drunk driving with daughter Kate in the backseat, scene changes to Duane and Linda facing off in court. That Linda remains a woman who still loves Duane while fearing his lack of responsibility, instead of her character being reduced to that of a bitter divorcee, is a measure of the pic’s human tone.Slotting the outstanding Garofalo in the part, quite distant from both her caustic comic persona and her political activist self, marks one of many casting triumphs here.

As if his family life isn’t bad enough, Duane runs into trouble at work at Caesar’s Palace as well. A security camera catches Duane appeasing a loudmouth gambler with some cash, and his casino boss Carl (Jerry Grayson, dead-on as a blend of taskmaster and father figure) is finally compelled to let Duane go.

The only emotional cushion Duane can fall back on is clownish pal Anthony (Judah Friedlander, giddily scene-grabbing here as he was in “American Splendor”), who works as a casino guard but still dreams of a stand-up career in his late 30s.

The Anthony scenes set off a comic stream that runs through the film, and, though Mulhern at times alternates the funny and the sad in a much-too-calculated fashion, “Duane Hopwood” is finally a movie with an authentic core, deeply concerned about a good man who can’t overcome his worst weaknesses. At its best, pic reps a caring sensibility toward people that’s too often lacking in American comedies.

The movie never lets Duane off the hook, so he must face seeing his daughters (in brief scenes, Pratt and Covey are marvelous) and Linda slip away from him, and he never quite deals with his alcoholism. Enjoying Thanksgiving dinner with Anthony and amusing neighbor Fred (Dick Cavett, delivering lines with perfect timing) is all Duane has as he faces an uncertain future.

Mulhern, an actor returning to feature helming after a seven-year break (little-seen “Walking to the Waterline,” 1998), allows his camera to ponder Schwimmer’s life-worn face and eyes drooping under the weight of disappointments. Thesps clearly lap up the tasty but never show-offy dialogue, and smartly choose to underplay.

The Jersey shoreline hasn’t looked this forlorn since the first season of “The Sopranos,” though one could quibble that Mauricio Rubinstein’s lensing is too washed-out and that Michael Rohayton’s score presses emotional notes too insistently. Production overall displays a strong connection with pic’s working-class milieu.

Popular on Variety

Duane Hopwood

Production: A Big Beach production in association with Elevation Filmworks. (International sales: Cinetic Media, New York.) Produced by Lemore Syvan, Marc Turtletaub, David Friendly. Co-producer, Andrew Lang. Directed, written by Matt Mulhern.

Crew: Camera (Efilm color, Super 16-to-35 mm), Mauricio Rubenstein; editor, Tom McArdle; music, Michael Rohayton; production designer, Benjamin Conable; costume designer, Lynn Falconer; sound, T.J. O'Mara, Stuart Deutsch; sound designer, 701 Sound; supervising sound editors, Marlena Grzaslewicz, Ira Spiegel; line producer, Ethan Smith; associate producer/assistant director, John M. Tyson; casting, Cindy Tolan. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (American Spectrum), Jan. 23, 2005. Running time: 83 MIN.

With: Duane Hopwood - David Schwimmer Linda - Janeane Garofalo Anthony - Judah Friedlander Gina - Susan Lynch Fred - Dick Cavett Steve - Steven R. SchirippaWith: Jerry Grayson, Bill Buell, John Krasinski, Ramya Pratt, Rachel Covey.

More Film

  • Aracne

    Chile’s Sanfic, Mexico’s Morbido Fest Pact to Promote Latino Horror (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mexican horror festival Morbido and Chile’s Santiago Intl. Film Festival (Sanfic) have agreed on a long-term collaboration intended to strengthen the genre film industry in Chile and across Latin America. This partnership will see Morbido representatives attend the Sanfic industry section each year to aid in the promotion of horror projects and advise those projects [...]

  • Tom Holland'Spider-Man: Homecoming' film premiere, Arrivals,

    Tom Holland Addresses Spider-Man’s Studio Divorce at D23: ‘I Love You 3000’

    British actor Tom Holland showed face on the main stage at D23 on Saturday, in the thick of an ugly studio battle over the rights to his iconic Marvel character Spider-Man. Headlines have been rolling in for days about the contentious battle for the cinematic future of the hero, after Sony Pictures became unwilling to [...]

  • Soul Movie

    Pixar's 'Soul' Announces Voice Cast: Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey to Star

    Disney debuted a first look at upcoming Pixar film “Soul” at the D23 expo in Anaheim, Calif. and announced its star-studded voice cast. “Soul” imagines that every person on earth comes pre-installed with a soul formed and perfected in a cosmic realm. Jamie Foxx will play a middle-school music teacher on earth who dreams of [...]

  • Emma Stone Variety Actors on Actors

    First Look at Emma Stone in Disney's Live-Action 'Cruella' Drops

    Emma Stone’s Cruella de Vil is significantly more punk rock than her animated counterpart. Stone appeared via video message to debut the first look of the titular character in Disney’s “Cruella” at D23 on Saturday, also revealing that it will take place in the punk rock era of the 1970s. In the first photo, Stone [...]

  • ‘Mulan’ Star Skips D23 Press Amid

    'Mulan' Star Crystal Yifei Liu Skips D23 Amid International Controversy

    Crystal Yifei Liu, the star of Disney’s live action remake of “Mulan,” skipped the press line and Disney panel at Disney’s D23 expo Saturday in the heat of the #BoycottMulan controversy. Unlike the other portions of the Saturday Disney panel, which featured both stars and directors for the other films presented, the “Mulan” panel was [...]

  • Marvel Stars Want Tom Holland's Spider-Man

    Marvel Stars Want to Keep Tom Holland's Spider-Man in the MCU

    Marvel fans aren’t the only ones heartbroken that Tom Holland’s Spider-Man might not be in the Marvel Cinematic Universe anymore. “It really is sad. First off, he’s the greatest Spider-Man to me. He actually has that youthful energy,” Elizabeth Olsen, who plays Scarlet Witch in the MCU, told Variety at D23 on Friday. “He’s been [...]

  • Kit Harington

    'Game of Thrones' Star Kit Harington Joins 'The Eternals'

    Jon Snow is leaving the North. “Game of Thrones” star Kit Harington is joining the cast of “The Eternals” as Dane Whitman, also known as the Black Knight, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige announced Saturday on the main stage at D23. Feige also confirmed Gemma Chan’s appearance in the film as Sersi, another member of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content