Duane Hopwood (David Schwimmer) works as a casino pit boss in Atlantic City, and is an alcoholic. His drinking has already cost him his marriage, and now ex-wife Janeane Garofalo is having to face the possibility of curtailing his visitation rights after he drives drunk with his young daughter in the back seat. After he makes a bad call at work, his job is in jeopardy as well. But there is hope for redemption still.
Roger Ebert calls this a “career-transforming performance.” Hardly… Schwimmer is still pulling the same hangdog expressions and pumping out the mournful witticisms. The context is rather more serious than a Friends episode, and were it not for the fact that we’ve seen him pull these acting tricks before, one would be more impressed with the admittedly solid work. The dialogue is strong, and the characters are nicely defined. And the subject matter, which could be very grim, is actually handled with some sharp wit.
The operative term here is “low key.” The score has a decent mix, but doesn’t overwhelm. There are some environmental effects (casino background noise, waves on the shore, and so forth), but they are very muted, and are just present enough to get the job done. The dialogue, which drives everything, is clear and undistorted. I may sound like I’m damning with faint praise, but this is actually an audio track that is perfectly adequate to the demands made of it.
The colours are muted, but deliberately so. They’re naturalistic, but tone down so as to make Atlantic City as grey and depressing as possible. Flesh tones, contrasts and blacks are all good. There are no problems with grain, edge enhancement, artifacting and the like, and the image is sharp. Essentially, what was true for the audio track is just as true for the picture.
Writer/director Matt Mulhern and David Schwimmer are doing their very first coimmentary here, and their inexperience shows. For the first while, they seem to have trouble thinking of anything to say. They do warm to the task subsequently, and basically cover the usual behind-the-scenes material. The theatrical trailer is here too. The menu’s main screen is scored.
A decent effort. You won’t be shouting about it from the rooftops, but it’s all nicely done.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Theatrical Trailer