"David Schwimmer in a feature-length Very Special Episode"
I can’t say that I was much of a fan of the long-running sitcom “Friends”–I’m not even sure that I ever watched an entire first-run episode from beginning to end during the ten seasons that it aired–but I must admit that I dearly hope that NBC can figure out a way to somehow bring the cast back together for a reunion or two. That way, they won’t have as much time to spend making hideous movies that I cannot avoid as part of my job. Already this year, we have had Lisa Kudrow in “Happy Endings” (which was the best of the bunch, which pretty much says it all right there), Courtney Cox-Arquette in the low-budget snoozer “November” and the big-budget craptacular “The Longest Yard” and, just last week, Jennifer Aniston was woefully miscast in the thrill-free snoozer “Derailed.” Now David Schwimmer gets his turn with “Duane Hopwood,” an insulting look at the crumbling life of a chronic addict that is as false and phony as any Very Special Episode you have ever encountered.Here, Schwimmer plays Duane Hopwood, a degenerate alcoholic whose bad habits have already cost him his marriage (to Janeane Garofalo) and now threaten his vague contact with his children. As generic light beer is to Guinness Stout, this movie is to the infinitely superior “Leaving Las Vegas” as the mopey Duane spirals further and further downward–all the while insisting that he doesn’t have a problem. The trouble is that writer-director Matt Mulhern seems to agree with that assessment and contrives to position him as a likable and sympathetic hero despite his cruelty towards others, his self-loathing attitude towards himself and his pronounced unwillingness to change his destructive ways.
A film like this can end in one of two ways: either Duane can pull himself together at last and embrace the world of sobriety (the inspirational made-for-TV ending) or his self-destructive ways can finally kill him (the “Leaving Las Vegas” ending). Instead, the film tries to have it both ways by presenting us with one of the more jaw-dropping conclusions in recent memory–a “happy” ending in which Duane, who has lost his job and kids, who has swung a baseball bat in the vicinity of his ex and her new boyfriend at the slightest provocation and who has walked out of his only attempt at rehab, nevertheless gets to have a happy ending in which he is surrounded by people who love and enable him (including the bartender he is dating and the roommate whose stand-up comedy set was ruined by Duane’s antics) at Thanksgiving dinner, complete with a relentlessly upbeat tune on the soundtrack. Meanwhile his ex-wife and children get stuck having their holiday meal at some drab and dingy diner–their apparent punishment for not realizing what a swell abusive drunk Duane was deep down.“Duane Hopwood” is a crock from beginning to end and if Schwimmer weren’t still a known commodity, I can’t imagine that anyone would have the nerve to release this disaster to the public. As it is, it is the kind of cruddy movie that may send you to the nearest bar in order to kill the memories of it as quickly and painlessly as possible
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 BendFilm Festival For more in the 2005 BendFilm Festival series, click here.