Click here to buy & sell on eBay!US 1999
dir, scr Joel Schumacher
cin Declan Quinn
stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robert De Niro

It would take a real effort to make a dull film starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as a drag queen, but Joel Schumacher comes mighty close with Flawless, a movie with as many unresolved conflicts as its own hero/ine. Hoffman’s Rusty describes himself as a woman trapped in a man’s body – likewise Flawless is essentially a quirkily unusual character drama stuck inside a crude, predictable crime thriller.

Rusty is the flamboyant neighbour of crusty, fiftysomething retired security guard Walt (De Niro). But while the two men are superficially exact opposites, melodramatic fate throws them together when Walt is left half-paralysed and barely able to speak after a stroke. Too proud to leave his apartment but in dire need of therapy, Walt is advised that the best thing for his voice would be to take singing lessons – which Rusty, who is saving up for a sex-change operation, reluctantly agrees to supply.

But while there’s nothing wrong with the development of the two characters and their very different worlds, Schumacher doesn’t have enough nerve to make the drama emerge from the personalities. Instead he bolts on an arbitrary and very tiresome subplot involving vicious gangsters searching for stolen loot hidden in Rusty and Walt’s seedy residential hotel, leading to a slam-bang finale which sees the central duo forced to violently defend themselves against mortal danger.

If the ending doesn’t quite pan out how you might expect, it nevertheless belongs in a very different kind of movie. But, after the Batman and John Grisham films and his previous effort, 8mm, Flawless is clearly a major step in the right direction for Schumacher – an unexpected late-career progression which reportedly pays big dividends with forthcoming dogme-style Vietnam drama Tigerland. And Flawless, if nothing else, gives Philip Seymour Hoffman the kind of screen time his vast talent deserves but all too rarely gets.

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by Neil Young
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