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Duane Hopwood (Matt Mulhern)

Duane Hopwood

Duane Hopwood (Matt Mulhern)

The story of turning to the bottle when life gets rough is not a new one, nor is the alcoholic hitting rock bottom and then working their way up to getting their life back on track. That’s why a lot of credit should be shown to director and screenwriter Matt Mulhern and his cast who have taken a path that dates back centuries and shown new sides to this human condition, where flaws and triumphs can go hand in hand.

Straying far from the brainy yet goofy, anal yet friendly character we all know him for, David Schwimmer showcases his theatric abilities in the lead character Duane Hopwood, who still holds on tight to the family that has slipped from his fingers, including the one that still bears his wedding ring long after the divorce is finalized. His constant absence as a night shift pitboss at Caesars in Atlantic City, along with his alcohol habit eventually led to the death of his marriage. He doesn’t realize how his drinking has become more than a social affair even after he’s arrested for a DUI…with his daughter asleep in the car, and from there his next struggles are to preserve his visitation rights and what little dignity he has left.

Janeane Garofolo plays his wife Linda, in one of the most serious roles I’ve seen her in, but she really takes a backseat to others like Judah Friedlander as Anthony, the friend and roommate of Duane. Anthony is a hopeful, wannabe-comedian and offers up some of the funnier moments in the movie along with a few doses of truth, staging second only to the beloved Dick Cavette, who plays Duane’s warm yet foot-in-mouth neighbor with a big heart and a caring soul. In fact, had he had more lines in the movie Cavette could have easily stolen the show.

Dramas like this are designed to contradict themselves, with eyes wide in a state of observation and deep inside and into the crevices of the unknown. The special curves of this canvas happen when Duane discusses the unraveling of his marriage with his friend, a female bartender who later becomes more than a friend. He compares his own role as a father and husband with that of his own father, how his mother supported his dad no matter what—emphasizing the entity of unconditional love that is recited in one’s vows.

Duane, of course, realizes his downfalls in subtle ways, a glass of water as he toasts to his friends and his conversation with his ex-wife as she’s leaving town. In the end you get the impression that from that point on, that instead of just living day to day in a haze, he is taking one day at a time to build his life into something worth living for.


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