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HBO presents
Duane Hopwood (2005)

"Anthony, it's not you, it's just a bad time."
- Duane Hopwood (David Schwimmer)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga  
Published: April 24, 2006

Stars: David Schwimmer
Other Stars: Janeane Garofalo, Judah Friedlander, Susan Lynch, Dick Cavett
Director: Matt Mulhern

MPAA Rating: R for (language)
Run Time: 01h:23m:09s
Release Date: April 25, 2006
UPC: 026359329920
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

For David Schwimmer making a name in feature films has, and will most likely continue to be a tall order, as it's tough to shed an image honed for over a decade. His first post-Friends feature is 2005's Duane Hopwood, a small film praised by critics that was only given a limited theatrical release.

Duane Hopwood is a man who once had it all, including a loving wife (Janeane Garofalo) and two daughters. Now that he's an alcoholic, all Duane has left is his cushy job as a pit boss at Caesar's Palace in Atlantic City. Now divorced, his downfall accelerates when he's stopped for drunk driving with his daughter in the car. A judge goes somewhat easy on Duane, only revoking his driver's license. He uses a bicycle to get to work until his friend and co-worker Anthony (Judah Friedlander) moves in with him and drives him to work. All that Duane wants is to spend time with his kids and get back with his wife, but numerous glasses of scotch and cans of beer always get in the way.

To say David Schwimmer has arrived as a serious actor is a major understatement. His portrayal of a man spiraling downward fast is more than Oscar worthy, as this character's problems only start with dependence. His is a straightforward, dramatic account, but Schwimmer levels things out by bringing a sly sense of humor to the proceedings when necessary. Simply, David Schwimmer blew me away in this film.

Duane Hopwood is tough at times to watch, as any man with children is bound to choke up watching the title character's hardships. Writer/director Matt Mulhern begins his film with a montage of Duane's good times, laughing with his wife and kids before making the pivotal decision of stopping at a bar one night—soon after, we have a front row seat to his demise. Mulhern's pacing is excellent; so much happens in the film that it's hard to believe the running time is a mere 80 minutes. Judah Friedlander, one of the great character actors, embodies Anthony, who gives Duane enough comedy in his life to keep him afloat. Dick Cavett also pops up as Duane's neighbor, and Janeane Garofalo gives her best performance in years as Duane's wife.

Ending a film like this can be difficult. Mulhern treads this carefully, and pulls off a satisfying and realistic conclusion. One comes away feeling truly sorry for this loving father who is crippled by addiction, as so many people are, and his resulting inability to make rational and intelligent decisions. Hopefully, more people will discover this film now that it's widely available, if only to find that David Schwimmer has the acting chops to potentially enjoy a lucrative movie career. Oh, and who is this Ross guy, anyway? I've already forgotten.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Duane Hopwood appears in an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen presentation that wears its low budget on its sleeve. Despite this, it still offers sharp detailed images during much of the film. The cold Novembers of Atlantic City are represented by a muted color palette, including a lot of gray and white. The dirt and grain is also kept to a minimum, despite the production values.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 track only springs to life during the film's music montages, but this is a dialogue-driven picture that doesn't need a wide dynamic range or booming bass. The dialogue is always clear, though, and it consistently gels with the rest of the mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by David Schwimmer & director Matt Mulhern
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The extras consist of the theatrical trailer for Duane Hopwood and an audio commentary track with David Schwimmer and director Matt Mulhern. This duo cover the film as a whole, but the most interesting talk involves Schwimmer's detailed discussion of his complex role.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

David Schwimmer proves his worth as a serious actor in Duane Hopwood. This isn't just another "man down on his luck turns to the bottle" story, either, as Schwimmer gives a complete performance in this truly original film. HBO's disc features solid audio and video, along with an entertaining and informative commentary track.


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