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4.2 out of 5 stars
Flawless
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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on May 15, 2000
`Flawless' is an offbeat story about Walter Koontz (Robert De Niro) an ex-cop who suffers a stroke and loses partial ability to speak. In an effort to regain some of his speech capabilities it is recommended to him that he take singing lessons. So he decides to ask his neighbor Rusty (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who is a female impersonator, to give him singing lessons. This is an unlikely pairing because Walter is a belligerent homophobe.
This film was written and directed by Joel Schumacher. His story, though peculiar, makes some powerful points. This is a story about hatred, bigotry and reconciliation. Walter learns through his disability who his friends really are, and who they are not. It seems that the people he hates treat him a lot better than the people he thought he loved. Ultimately, he is able to look past his prejudices to find the human elements that make him and Rusty not so different after all.
This was an excellent character study of both main characters, giving a lot of insight into the motivations and lives of each. Unfortunately, the story meanders too often to irrelevant characters and scenes that don't really contribute much (like the Gay Republicans). Schumacher would have been better to concentrate on the relationship between Walter and Rusty rather than digressing so frequently into Rusty's relationships with his friends.
De Niro was outstanding in this film. Not only was he excellent in the emotional portrayal of a man having to deal with a sudden debilitating stroke, but he was very realistic in his portrayal of the physical disability itself. The combination of his struggles to do the simplest of tasks and the obvious look of anguish and frustration on his face was poignant and affecting.
Hoffman brought a lot of emotional energy to his part, and his imitation of a drag queen was passable, though somewhat forced and unnatural. Wilson Jermaine Heredia, who played Cha-Cha, the winner of the Flawless contest, was a much more convincing queen.
I rated this film a 7/10. This is a good film that helps us understand that the remedy for the fear wrought of our differences is understanding, not hatred. In that respect it makes an important contribution. If cross dressing and blatantly gay themes put you off, perhaps you should defy your inclinations and see it.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2000
This film is a fine blend of superior acting and great humor about subject matter that could, in less capable hands, be tragic or worse yet, maudlin. Joel Schumacher, director of *St. Elmo's Fire* and *Batman and Robin*, among others, does a really excellent job here. Nothing needs to be said about the skills of veteran actor Robert DeNiro. Philip Seymour Hoffman, a young actor who has rightfully come into his own in the past decade, gives one of his best and most insightful performances.
DeNiro is Walter, a decorated hero of the NYPD, who suffers a stroke that affects him emotionally as well as physically. His doctor suggests singing lessons to help him improve his speech. Rather than be seen in public any more than necessary, Walter asks Rusty (Hoffman), another tenant in his apartment building who coordinates a drag queen stage show, to give him the lessons. The fun begins immediately, as these two have had a mutual dislike for each other from their earliest encounters.
Critics have said, among other things, that: (1) the dialogue between Rusty and Walter is cliche-ridden and (2) the film seems to say that all gay men in NYC are either drag queens or "log cabin Republicans." Rubbish! Walter's comments to Rusty at the beginning of their relationship are the usual things you would expect to hear from a homophobic male. Rusty's comebacks are as often as not laugh-out-loud funny, as well as very wise, and they definitely show his strength of character.
As for the alleged limited depiction of the NYC male homosexual population, it is really a matter of "birds of a feather flock together." The movie doesn't pretend to give an overall view of the gay/lesbian population in NY or anywhere else. Rusty and his friends spend a lot of time rehearsing their nightly stage show, giving the show, and gathering with their friends at favorite drag queen hang-outs--probably perfectly typical behavior for this specialized population group. And it is clear in the one confrontation between Rusty's gang and the "button down" gay Republicans that the latter group finds the drag queens' appearance and mannerisms unacceptable. Who's to say that others in the city's gay community didn't/don't feel the same way?
It is said that upon his first reading of the script, Hoffman recognized that Rusty wasn't really gay, but a transexual--a woman trapped in a man's body--a tough concept for either gay or straight people to grasp. Though "straight" himself, Hoffman benefitted from the character coaching of the real drag queen celebrities who took the roles of Rusty's best friends and his partners in producing the night club act. The result is an unforgettable performance in which Rusty proves to be the best person of all to help Walter learn to cope with a body he has come to despise. Rusty, who is making plans to have sex change surgery, knows more than almost anyone else could what it is to be trapped in a body that doesn't fit the person inside it.
The film is alternately deeply moving and uproariously funny as Walter and Rusty come to really understand and bond with one another. There are not many movies that have tackled the idea of a gay man and a straight man becoming true friends. This film handles one possible scenario for that topic in a way that is stylish, uplifting, and unforgettable.
If the story's premise is the tiniest bit contrived, so what? That has been so of a lot of excellent books and movies, and it hasn't hurt the story one bit. It is inherent to fiction that it be a bit contrived. This film leaves you hoping that some day there will be a more enlightened world in which life imitates the art in this film.
Cheers to Schumacher, DeNiro, Hoffman, the rest of the cast, and anyone else who helped this delighful story come into being on film. Forget the critics, be bold, and give this film a viewing. You'll be glad you did.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
How on earth did this movie get made? It's so offbeat, such improbable fodder for the movie mill of Hollywood, so, so, so.... So over the top in every way. Two very special and talented actors hold down the story. DeNiro plays a homophobic cop who is trying to recover from a debilitating stroke; he starts by taking singing lessons from his neighbor, played by the incomparable Philip Seymour Hoffman, a pathetic drag queen who is trying to save up enough money for a sex change operation.
Well. You can imagine the looks DeNiro gives him, the comments, the eye-rolls, as Hoffman vamps or slumps around in a kimono or wig or feathered scarf. Really, really good stuff. You suspect DeNiro will emerge from this encounter as a more tolerant man, and you would be correct - but that's not the end of the tale.
There's another whole plot line about drug deals and stolen money that comes up against the gay community and the drag queens, prostitutes of all three sexes, the cops (both honest and dis) - and when the goons come to call, you fear that these people you've come to care about will come to a sad fate.
I won't say more. Just don't miss it.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
I rented this video by mistake -- literally. I had chosen another film but when I got home the wrong film was inside the box. I had never heard of this 1999 movie but it was starring Robert DeNiro and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who I just seen play a wonderful character role as the writer in State and Main, and so I decided to watch it.
The theme is interesting. Robert DeNiro plays an aging former security guard who lives in a run-down apartment house peopled by some weird and interesting characters. Philip Seymour Hoffman is cast as the drag queen across the courtyard who taunts the homophobic DeNiro who amuses himself by paying for women he meets at a sleazy dance hall.
Then DeNiro has a stroke. When he is released from the hospital his helplessness makes him contemplate suicide. His physical therapist recommends singing lessons to help his slurred speech. "At least you'll be able to have phone sex" says the therapist. As Philip Seymour Hoffman is a singing teacher, these two fine actors are thrown together for some excellent scenes. Usually drag queen characters play comic roles but his is a very serious part, as is DeNiro's. I understand also that DeNiro visited rehabilitation centers and worked with a physical therapist in order to get the speech and physical problems of a stroke victim correct. This authenticity comes through in his outstanding acting. There's much to say in this film about courage and compassion. The chemistry between the two actors make it all very real.
It's too bad that the rest of the film is of the Grade B variety. There's some silly plot about a drug deal and hidden cash and some bad guy gangster scenes that are overacted and feel like the amateur hour. There's too many stereotype characters who live in the apartment house. There are too many subplots. The problem with this film is that it can't decide if its a comedy or a drama. It's strongest in its dramatic moments but then seems to fade off and become just too busy and distracting. DeNiro's and Hoffman's performances are so good, however, that it's worth watching just for that. There's much food for thought here and good issues raised about physically challenged people.
So for those of you who don't' necessarily demand perfection in every video you see, I give this film a modest recommendation. I know that I enjoyed it in spite of the fact that it was not "flawless".
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2000
No, this isn't a perfect movie. No, it won't change any small minds. Yes, it is a fantastic ode to friendship and heroism of many kinds. Though this movie has none of the heavy-handedness of message movies, it has two very clear messages: friendship comes through seeing similarities not differences and sometimes it takes heroism just to live your daily life.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman is a revelation in this movie. Robert De Niro is impeccable. Even Barry Miller (remember him from Fame?) does a great job in what should be a throwaway role as the devious hotel clerk.
But there is more going on here than amazing performances. Rusty, Hoffman's character, frequently calls on great divas of film "Okay, baby, Michelle Pfeiffer going after a Dangerous Mind," for courage. It was supremely fitting that he mentioned Grace Kelly in Rear Window when he has to climb the balcony fire escape. Not only is Rusty, like Lisa, trying to prove herself to her man, Schumacher is drawing a great parallel between the two films, both essays on the idea that the loneliest place is in a crowd. Both films take place in New York apartment complexes where people spy on each other through windows and live in constant dis/connection with their neighbors' lives. Both films examine the most horrible fate - being alone. And though Flawless lacks the tension and artistic beauty of Rear Window, its resolution is even more fulfilling. It may be trite, but it is true - Stick Together.
Watch this movie for the acting, the incredibly sharp dialog, the longing behind these lonely characters' eyes, and the final triumph of these two unlikely companions.
Oh yes, and if you are gay (or just happen to have a gay person's wit), get out your pen and paper. Those one-liners are unbelievable.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2000
I just finished watching "Flawless," and read quite a number of reviews.
It would seem would be critics think themselves clever when they state; "Flawless is anything but." The major flaw here is that they seem to have missed the point entirely. The point of "Flawless," - as I see it - is that NONE of us are flawless. What one may have thought was flawed in this movie, another may think was what gave it substance. I don't believe Schumacher was trying to make a flawless movie.
I for one really enjoyed this movie, and thought the exploration of the characters and relationships was well done. Particularly when DeNiro has an awakening and sees that "Rusty," is indeed very much a woman - trapped in a mans body. What's even more poetic about this realization is that the source of this revelation comes from the very "women," that he once thought was nothing but a whore.
I've also heard it said that this movie was predictable and stereo-typed the "drag queen," . The question I ask is how many of these critics actually know any Drag Queens, and shouldn't the mere fact that it had actual professional female impersonators given it some credability. Now the critics give Hoffman a deserving applause for his performance - he WAS brilliant.
On a final note, a "flawless" movie simply doesn't exsist. Flaws are like beauty- they are in the eye of the beholder. As for the predictability of the movie, and it's ending, let me ask this. How many times in your own life have conflicts came to a predictable end, that in the beginning you were just too narrow minded to see? DeNiro was initially too narrow minded to see the value of a person - "Rusty," and in the end came to realize the value of the friendship. Hey that's REAL LIFE stuff, sure with some melodrama thrown in but I don't think Schumacher was going for the understated.
Lighten up you nasty critics, and just enjoy feeling at peace at the end of this movie instead of suicidal. What's wrong with a movie with a happy ending.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Oscar winners Robert DeNiro and Phillip Seymour Hoffman star in this cute gay comedy from the late '90's. DeNiro plays a New York City cop who suffers a stroke. He then receives singing lessons from his upstairs drag queen neighbor to help him with his speech. The bulk of the story deals with thugs looking for money that someone in the cop's and drag queen's building stole.
"Flawless" is a cute comedy/drama and what makes the film so memorable are the amazing performances by its leads. However, Phillip Seymour Hoffman steals the picture from DeNiro with his intense and convincing portrayal of a drag queen. Everything from Hoffman's facial expressions to his voice to his mannerisms makes the viewer think they are really watching a real-life drag performer on the screen. Hoffman's portrayal is one of the best I have ever witnessed.
The movie has been pretty much forgotten by its gay audience that it was targeted for. This is obvious as the film is now out-of-print and Amazon has none in stock. I suggest in purchasing a copy of "Flawless" from a buyer through Amazon; they have cheap copies and the movie is really cute and enjoyable.
The DVD comes with a collectible booklet and the original theatrical trailer. There are also French and Spanish subtitles.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2002
I really, really wanted to like this film. I love Philip Seymour Hoffman, and I love Robert DeNiro even more; however, my passion for those two actors just couldn't carry me through this film happily.
While Hoffman does play a fairly good drag queen, and while DeNiro does a good job portraying a stroke victim, this film is rife with awful stereotypes. Folks who've been in The Family Scene will chuckle at a few good lines and inside jokes, but there will also be substantial groaning at tired old cliches and even more tired old reparte. Gay culture is no longer the hush-hush sub-sub-culture it once was - the straights are onto the lingo for the most part, and stuff that was once Known Only By Gay Folks is common knowledge. Trouble is, this movie seems to think it's all still very mysterious.
Additionally, there are no gay men in this film who are not queens or Gay Republicans in Suits, and the only lesbians (seen for all of perhaps 15 seconds) are large butches. Granted, the film isn't about lesbians, but still - how about giving fair time to non-polarized gay and lesbian folks? What about the outdoorsy, down-to-earth gay guys, or the lesbians that don't have the once-requisite haircut? Let's be real, here, people. A lot of gay folks are Just Folks, too.
The stereotypes don't end at the gay & lesbian folks, though - nope, we also have Skanky Prostitues; Sleazy, Corrupt Desk Clerk of Seedy Apartment Building; Filthy, Brutal Drug Dealer and His Thugs; Hooker with the Heart of Gold; and sundry other people we have all seen before (and have seen done better, too.) Even the several storylines have been done before - take your pick.
Despite all of its faults, however, "Flawless" is a fairly enjoyable film (note the three stars, instead of one or two,) largely because Hoffman and DeNiro try to rise above the cliches swarming around them like mosquitos and just play the parts as they felt they should be played. If only the script writers had given them better material, this really could have been entertaining. I'm very fond of Jason Isaacs, who is nearly as sexy in drag as he is out of it. There were a few laugh-out-loud moments, but overall, I was waiting for it to be over, something I seldom feel in movies. Alas.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
I liked every second of this great movie. Many people seem to concentrate on the content or the acting but they are wrong. This movie has an aura. A feeling that lasts. The story isn't great and De Niro's acting may be sometimes annoying but that doesn't count a bit.
The movie is about a homophobic cop who gets a stroke and he takes singing lessons from the drag queen living above him. The drag queen wants to be a "real woman" and spares money for the operation. That's not much but there is something that makes the movie so good you'll never forget it. So what I suggest is that you'd rather not believe the bad critics and just watch it cause you won't regret it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
FLAWLESS (Writ./Dir. Joel Schumacher, 113 minutes, 1999) ~

This perennial favorite of mine (boy do I love that descriptive phrase, "perennial favorite") stars De Niro as Walt Koonz and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman as Rusty. Koonz, a heroic security guard (not a police officer as is wrongly stated so often) who is downed but not outed by a stroke, finds himself alone. And in need of assistance at home unless he'd rather be in a nursing home.

Into this odd, sad reversal steps young Rusty--a flamboyantly out and proud drag queen who loves fun and has a heart of gold. Saved by Koonz early on in the story from a bashing, Rusty tries to get to know the homophobic Koonz. He ends up offering to care for Koonz as Koonz regains his strength.

I will not spoil this any further. A young Hoffman here caught my eye just as he did in Twister, and I really thought he was going to be the first truly, openly gay star who started out that way. He was that good in his role. De Niro, on the other hand, merely needed to portray disabled (exactly as he did in Awakenings) and ex-para-law-enforcement (without the "para" that describes every other role for De Niro).

This film in 1999 meant a great deal to gay audiences--and you were either 'there' or you weren't. Hoffman's character, so unashamedly out and unflinching about being a transsexual, meant the world to late closet-escapees like me as well as to vulnerable young gay people. It is well worth the discomfort of being, if I MUST admit it, a somewhat 2nd-rate film considering the hot star power that is the best thing about it.

This was Hoffman's first portrayal of a gay man, his last portrayal being his Oscar-winning Truman Capote in Capote.

Most importantly of all, it represents two titanic archetypes--the old homophobic grump and the young free gay spirit--in a titanic battle to understand each other. If you enjoy gay cinema at all, you cannot miss this, and if I have to, I'll appeal to sentiment and mention that it was Hoffman's true break-out role. And no, it does not mark the end of De Niro's career as some have said in years past.
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