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A Flawed Friendship

2 minute read
Richard Schickel

Love–or at least affectionate understanding–conquers all, even (perhaps especially) initial loathing. It’s the oldest message of the movies. Flawless carries that lie to new heights of predictability.

Robert De Niro plays Walt Koontz, an almost parodistically macho security guard, who is felled by a stroke as he tries to prevent a robbery in his New York City apartment building. As part of his therapy he requires singing lessons to help him remobilize his frozen vocal cords. Rusty (Philip Seymour Hoffman), his transvestite neighbor, is recruited to tutor him, while we settle down to await their inevitable bonding.

This is a remarkably tiresome process. It’s not just that they have a long history of mutual, top-of-the-lungs contempt to get past. It’s that writer-director Joel Schumacher refuses to stick to what might have been his best point, which is how the singing lessons actually work. That’s apparently too static for him, and we see very little of the pair working together. Instead, he focuses on the boringly brutal criminals who keep looking for their lost loot, on the cute vagaries of drag-queen life, on Koontz’s messed-up romantic and buddy relationships. All this points to the preordained ending, in which everyone learns to get along with everyone else. De Niro’s is a carefully studied performance, which pretty much concedes the screen to Hoffman’s showy mix of transgression and tenderness. He’s fine, but Flawless is a cause lost to feel-good cliches.

–By Richard Schickel

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