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Duplex

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4

All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Duplex

Starring: Ben Stiller, Drew Barrymore
Director: Danny DeVito
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 97 Minutes
Release Date: September 2003
Genre: Comedy


*Also starring: Eileen Essel, Harvey Fierstein, Amber Valletta, Robert Wisdom, James Remar, Justin Theroux



Review by Harvey Karten
3½ stars out of 4

Technology stocks are in the toilet, gold is not moving too fast, banks are paying one percent, and even the bond funds are expressing their anger at the economy that President Bush is helping to destroy. What to do? Real estate! Real estate is always a good investment, isn't it, especially if your property is not in the Arizona desert but in the better neighborhoods of New York City. What could be bad? Consider "Duplex" a fair warning. Not only can property values actually go down, even in the tonier nabes of Brooklyn such as Cobble Hill and Park Slope, but having a tenant (a great idea since whoever lives in your building is paying your mortgage) can be one major hassle. Danny DeVito's "Duplex," from a sharp, even brilliant screenplay by Larry Doyle, is a dark, ironic comedy that perhaps suburbanites cannot fully appreciate. If you're urban and can dig the verbal dynamics of a Woody Allen script and the pratfalls and scatology of the Farrelly Brothers, "Duplex" is your obvious choice, perhaps the best light comedy this year.

The plot centers on a nice, young couple, nice, that is, if you cut them some slack for their attempts to murder an 86-year-old lady who appears to mean well when she blasts "Hawaii Five-O" from her TV, calls in the landlord for a wealth of plumbing repairs, and takes advantage of their good-guys attitudes to send them on a slew of errands. What was it that finally turned Alex Rose (Ben Stiller) and his adorable wife Nancy Kendricks (Drew Barrymore), into no-more-nice-guy attitudes? Could they have snapped when Alex, always at home because he's a novelist, went on a shopping expedition with Mrs. Connelly (the spunky, 86-year-old Eileen Essel) only to find Mrs. Connelly counting the berries, lining up the tomatoes, and later, in a pharmacy, counting out the pills from her latest prescription? Or when Alex and Nancy, trying to make a baby, is spied upon by the old lady who is watching from their window? Perhaps when Mrs. Connelly held Nancy on the phone in her office, resulting in her botching a deadline and getting in real bad with her boss?

Whatever the case, Danny DeVito has a film with the signature of his first directorial effect, "Throw Momma from the Train," about a man played DeVito who is eager to get rid of her harridan of a mother. At times, you're bound to think of Joseph Kesselring's classic stage comedy, "Arsenic and Old Lace," about a group of charming ladies who murder their lonely tenants because they feel sorry for them and want to put them out of their misery. Nobody in DeVito's play is as insane as the brother of those women who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt, but by the time Mrs. Connelly gets through with them, they're pretty much climbing the walls, willing even to hire a hit man to do away with their rent-contolled tenant who cannot otherwise be uprooted.

A look at the glorious apartment shared by the unhappy couple and the neighborhood they live in, filmed by Asastas Michos), should forever end anyone's belief that Brooklyn is somehow an out-of-it borough without the beauty of a single tree. "Duplex" is snapply, stylish, and bears an ironic ending that even Neil La Bute would applaud.

Copyright 2003 Harvey Karten

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