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movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Flawless

Starring: Robert De Niro, Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Director: Joel Schumacher
Rated: R
RunTime: 110 Minutes
Release Date: November 1999
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Daphne Rubin-vega, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Rory Cochrane, Barry Miller

Review by MrBrown
2 stars out of 4

With a title like _Flawless_, writer-director Joel Schumacher has set himself up for the easy critical jab, so allow me to get it out of the way right here, right now: _Flawless_ is anything but. However, this small-scale character drama from the poster child for studio-manufactured bombast is not without its flashes of perfection even if the whole is the opposite of its title.

_Flawless_ may take its title from a drag queen beauty pageant that figures not-at-all-prominently in the plot, but it best serves as a description of the terrific performances featured in the film. First and foremost there is Robert De Niro, who initially does not break any new ground as retired New York security guard Walt Koontz, a homophobic macho man who is constantly annoyed by the drag queens who practice singing in the apartment across the way. But after Walt suffers a paralyzing stroke, De Niro turns in some of his most impressive work. His physical mannerisms are entirely convincing largely because he doesn't overdo them; he shows remarkable control as Walt's condition slowly improves through the course of the film.

That improvement is in no small part due to the drag queen who is Walt's main target, Rusty (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who reluctantly gives Walt singing lessons as speech therapy. Hoffman's performance is the direct opposite of De Niro's, all flamboyance as opposed to subtlety. It's a showy part, no doubt, and Hoffman far from downplays Rusty's theatrical nature, creating more than a few funny moments. But his work also conveys genuine heart; one easily feels the pain behind Rusty's heavily made-up exterior.

Even the more peripheral supporting players are noteworthy, in particular Daphne Rubin-Vega, who is touching as Tia, a young tango dance hall patron who carries a torch for Walt. But performances do not entirely a movie make; there has to be an interesting story to tell. Unfortunately, Schumacher doesn't come up with one. As can be gleaned, the focus of _Flawless_ is the unlikely friendship that develops between Walt and Rusty, and while the relationship is not without its charms--De Niro and Hoffman play, pardon the term, flawlessly off of each other--there's nothing terribly distinctive with how it develops. Adding another layer of contrivance is a tired thriller element Schumacher places on top of it, involving some shady characters looking for stolen money.

Schumacher obviously intended _Flawless_ to prove that he can pull off a small-scale film, but he's only half-succeeded. The strong performances show that he can coax winning work from his cast within more modest settings. While that proves his ability at a director, his dull script shows his writing ability lags far behind.

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