Flawless

on November 24, 1999 by Annlee Ellingson
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Writer-director-producer Joel Schumacher's premise here may not be original--tossing together two disparate characters to see what they learn from each other isn't exactly, say, "Being John Malkovich"--but the performances by A-lister Robert De Niro and character actor-cum-leading lady Philip Seymour Hoffman live up to the film's title.
   Retired security guard Walt Koontz (De Niro) suffers a stroke while trying to help a neighbor in trouble, finding his once vital self paralyzed on the right side. Advised by his physical therapist to take singing lessons to improve his speech capabilities, Walt swallows his pride and seeks help from Rusty (Hoffman), the drag queen next door. As they work together, the men develop a relationship that allows Walt to become the hero he once was again.
   Schumacher' s script suffers slightly from sequences of events that don't quite make sense. (For example, why don't the police search and secure the scene after the initial incident, leaving the perpetrators free to terrorize everyone in the building?) And his supporting characters--both the drag queens and the security guards--are caricatures and/or stereotypes.
   But De Niro confirms his talent as the conservative-type who must re-examine his values--both towards his teacher and towards himself--especially when one considers that he does it without moving his mouth. And Hoffman, who until now has played supporting roles in films such as "Boogie Nights" and "Happiness," proves a powerful peer for his macho co-star, even in stiletto heels. Starring Robert De Niro and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Directed and written by Joel Schumacher. Produced by Joel Schumacher and Jane Rosenthal. An MGM release. Drama. Rated R for language and violence. Running time: 111 min
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