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.

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

  • Oscars Nominees Popular Movies

    Oscar Best Picture Race Dominated by Box Office Winners

    This year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ ill-fated popular film Oscar category could have just as easily been dubbed “best picture.” That’s because the crop of movies vying to take home the top prize represents the highest-grossing group of best picture nominees in nearly a decade. The eight films in the category [...]

  • Isabela Moner Marcel Ruiz Rosa Salazar

    Variety Announces 10 Latinxs to Watch 2019

    Variety has announced this year’s 10 Latinxs to Watch, and has also selected the Miami Film Festival as a partner for the annual celebration of promising talent in the Latino community that will include a panel and film screenings. This year’s honorees are Isabela Moner (“Dora the Explorer”), Rosa Salazar (“Alita: Battle Angel,” “Bird Box”), [...]

  • New Regency Launches U.K.-Based International TV

    New Regency Launches International TV Division With Scott Free Alum Ed Rubin

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” co-producer New Regency has launched a London-based international TV division, recruiting former Scott Free exec Ed Rubin to run the new operation and hiring Emma Broughton from The Ink Factory (“The Night Manager”) as head of scripted. New Regency produced “The Revenant,” “12 Years a Slave” and “Birdman.” It recently opened up shop [...]

  • Kate Bosworth'Nona' film premiere, New York,

    Kate Bosworth Helps Launch Campaign for Female Filmmakers

    In her 20-year career in Hollywood, Kate Bosworth has starred in blockbusters like “Superman Returns” as well as indie darlings like 2014’s “Still Alice.” But the actress has always had a desire to get more involved from the ground up. Now, she is partnering with Women In Film and Chloe Wine Collection to launch the [...]

  • Black Panther

    'Black Panther,' 'Crazy Rich Asians,' 'Westworld' Among Costume Designers Guild Winners

    “Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Favourite” and “Black Panther” walked away with top honors at the 21st annual Costume Designers Guild Awards Tuesday night, the final industry guild show before the Oscars on Feb. 24. “The Favourite” and “Black Panther” are up for the Oscar this year, along with “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” “Mary Poppins [...]

  • WGA Writers Contract Talks

    Talent Agents, WGA Achieve Progress in Second Round of Talks

    Hollywood talent agents and the Writers Guild of America have achieved some progress at their second negotiating session over agency regulations, according to sources close to the talks. The two sides met Tuesday, two weeks after their first meeting resulted in both sides criticizing each other, followed by the WGA holding a trio of spirited [...]

  • Aaron Paul

    Film News Roundup: Aaron Paul Honored by Sun Valley Film Festival

    In today’s film news roundup, Aaron Paul is honored, Bruce Berman is re-upped at Village Roadshow, and Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher get a book deal. FESTIVAL HONORS The Sun Valley Film Festival has selected Idaho native and three-time Emmy winner Aaron Paul as the winner of its Pioneer Award, presented by Variety for his [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content