Duplex

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Alex Rose and Nancy Kendricks are a young, professional, New York couple in search of their dream home. When they finally find the perfect Brooklyn brownstone they are giddy with anticipation. The duplex is a dream come true, complete with multiple fireplaces, except for one thing: Mrs. Connelly, the old lady who lives on the rent-controlled top floor. Assuming she is elderly and ill, they take the apartment.

However, they soon realize that Mrs. Connelly is in fact an energetic senior who enjoys watching her television at top volume day in and day out and rehearsing in a brass band. As a writer, Alex is attempting to finish his novel against a looming deadline. However, he is interrupted daily by Mrs. Connelly’s numerous demands and requests, and what begins as a nuisance quickly escalates into an all-out war.

When Nancy loses her job and the pair are trapped at home together with Mrs. Connelly, their rage turns to homicidal fantasy as they plot ways to get rid of their no-good neighbor – finally deciding to hire a hitman, Chick, to kill her. However, his asking price for doing the hit is $25,000. Unable to initially come up with the money, Alex approaches Coop to ask for a loan, but is rebuffed. Desperate and needing the money in two days, they sell almost every possession they own to pay Chick who will do the hit on Christmas Eve. Chick fails to kill Mrs. Connelly when she defends herself with her speargun by shooting him in the shoulder.

Accepting defeat, Alex and Nancy decide to evict themselves, but find out that the old woman has died right when they leave. After Alex and Nancy, now with no jobs, friends, or money left, move from New York they contemplate their strange encounters. But here the audience learns that the realtor of the duplex (revealed to be Mrs. Connelly’s son) and the ill-tempered police officer who had frequently harassed and distrusted the couple (her son’s lover), and the woman (who is not in fact dead) does this all the time. The unethical trio have been using an illegal scam for years by harassing young good-natured couples that move into the ground floor duplex, forcing them to move out, and then faking Mrs. Connelly’s own death so they can collect a commission from the next occupants. Alex and Nancy were Mrs. Connelly and her sons latest victims among so many.

At the conclusion, it is revealed that Alex (unaware about the scam) used his experience as inspiration for his next book, which became a best-seller, thus giving the film a semi-happy ending.

REVIEW:

Perhaps I shouldn’t have watched Duplex, seeing as I will (hopefully) be moving in the next few months. This is about the most nightmarish scenario for moving into a new place that one can come across, and yet it was morbidly funny. I do have to wonder, though, for people not in the situation of nearly moving, would the humor work as well?

What is this about?

New York City couple Alex and Nancy dream of the departure of their upstairs neighbor, who’s hogging a rent-controlled apartment they’d dearly love to have. If she doesn’t move out, they may have to take matters into their own hands.

What did I like?

Coupling. For some reason, I didn’t think that Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore would make a good on screen couple, and somehow they surprise me with their great chemistry. Both have great comedic chops, playing off each other, and they also make the lovey-dovey stuff believable, but not overly mushy, excluding a scene in which Barrymore’s character is gushing over her hubby to her coworker.

Let’s get physical. The physical comedy, stunts, and gags are really what make this film worth watching as they deal with their old lady tenant from hell. As they continue to plot and plan to get her out, failing miserably at every turn, one can’t help but laugh at their apparent ineptitude, while feeling animosity toward the old lady who won’t go away.

There was an old lady. By all accounts, the audience shouldn’t like the old lady, but she’s such a sweet old bitty that you can’t help it. That Irish accent she has doesn’t help either. As with most old ladies in films of this nature, she gets many of the best lines, but does she get the last laugh?

What didn’t I like?

Give them a break. At a point in the film, it seems like our protagonists can’t win for losing, and just when it seems that things are going to turn around, the crazy old lady upstairs somehow manages to ruin things to the point that Ben Stiller’s character’s laptop, which holds his newly finished novel, catches fire and is eventually run over and destroyed by a street sweeper. Call me a softie, but I just wanted the poor guy to get one over on that old bad, especially for that. Seems like that was a bit too far, if you ask me.

Cop. Continuing on the point of giving a break, there is this cop who appears to be in the old lady’s pocket, based on the way he sides with her on everything, even when they save her life by doing CPR. Wonder why no one trusts cops anymore? It is because of characters like this (and the police that don’t do anything when they see something wrong, but that’s a topic for another blog).

Wasted talent. This is not a bad cast, but I can’t help but feel for the wasted talent. For instance, James Remar as the assassin seemed like he would make for an interesting character, but all he really does is give Ben Stiller’s character porn when we first meet him, and gets shot by a harpoon from the old lady. Harvey Fierstein is quite the accomplished comedic actor, but he was relegated to something akin to a cameo, when he perhaps could have been more. Swoosie Kurtz, Maya Rudolph, Wallace Shawn, and Justin Theroux also fall into the wasted talent trap.

In conclusion, Duplex leaves the audience with enough laughs to call it a comedy. The dark comedy and the talent of Stiller and Barrymore carry, or should I say drag, over the finish line. There are issues with this film, but it shouldn’t be enough to totally keep you away. Do I recommend it? Yes, but proceed with caution, as this is not a great comedy, just an ok flick. Check it out, if you’d like.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

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