More aptly titled DOA, were that name not already taken, FLAWLESS is an
unappealing mess of a movie. Written and directed by Joel Schumacher,
whose last film was the sleazy 8MM, the movie has tonal problems from
its gangster beginning to its madcap mayhem ending. Sometimes it wants
to be a gay comedy, other times it wants to pull your heart strings and
still other times it wants to shock you with Schumacher's signature
No matter what it tries, it rarely succeeds. Best described as a
comedic tragedy, the movie ladles on lots of attempted humor. It is the
sort of movie that has one person -- in our audience it was the same one
person -- laughing loudly and frequently, as the rest of the viewers
The story concerns the awkward friendship between a depressed,
homophobic, stroke-victim, Walt Koontz (Robert De Niro), and an unhappy
transvestite, Rusty Zimmerman (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who wants to be
a woman as soon as he can get the money. Besides the tens of thousands
of dollars for the sex change operation itself, he also requires $28,000
for "extensive psychological testing" before the operation.
"I'm lonely; I'm ugly; I'm a drag queen," Rusty concisely summarizes his
view of his life. Although he tries to act tough ("I left sensitivity
back in the sand pile"), he lets himself get pushed around. Walt
begrudgingly comes to Rusty to get singing lessons as a form of speech
therapy. De Niro, turning in one of his most uninteresting performances
ever, accurately portrays the speech patterns of his character but
forgets to give him any life. The entire movie features labored acting
whose presentation has the dullness of an old knife.
Although Daniel Orlandi's costumes are colorful, Declan Quinn destroys
their effect with his grim and ugly cinematography -- more of the film's
tonal problems. Schumacher, who also gave us the abysmal BATMAN &
ROBIN, can't seem to make up his mind whether he wants to make LA CAGE
AUX FOLLES or SEVEN. Whenever he throws in something fun, like the
contrast between the conservatively-suited gay Republicans and the
flamboyant cross-dressers, Schumacher feels compelled to destroy the
moment. Rather that just enjoy the visual delights of the situation, he
writes Rusty a diatribe against all Republicans, even gay ones.
There are also subplots about the search for a mobster's missing money
and about Walt's search for unpaid female companionship. None of this
makes any difference because Schumacher's narrative, or lack thereof,
can't sustain the viewer's interest. There is no genuine chemistry
between the two leads, and the movie never comes close to jelling.
FLAWLESS runs 1:50. It is rated R for pervasive language and strong
violence and would be acceptable for older teenagers.
Copyright © 1999 Steve Rhodes