Duets (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
recipe: Rabbit Run meets The Hustler.
Make it Rabbit Sing.
About 30 years ago John Updike wrote a now rather famous novel called Rabbit Run in which the hero, Rabbit Angstrom, a former college jock turned boring middle class citizen, left the responsible ennui of his suburban life by going out for a pack of cigarettes and never returning.
Duets, in an obvious and direct homage to that moment, features Paul Giamatti, fed up with his irritatingly repetitious and meaningless suburban life, telling his wife he's going out for a pack of cigarettes.
replies "you don't smoke", but he's actually headed for a
case of the middle age crazies, the primary symptom of which is a road
trip full of drugs and karaoke contests. He's never sung in karaoke
before, is not even sure what it is, but it represents freedom to him,
and he jumps on it.
Along the way he gives a ride to a fleeing felon. The two men realize that they are similar in many ways. When they first meet, each describes his life without saying what it is he does. The life of a salesman on the road and the life of an imprisoned man are similar in many ways that we don't think about.
the way, the convict also makes the suburban nerd realize that their
lives are very different, and that he should be thankful for what he
That part of the movie is a beautiful and original love story. The prisoner teaches the salesman how (not) to rob a convenience store, the salesman teaches the convict how to drive. (Apparently he went from rural childhood to prison, and never learned to drive a car.) For the climax of their love, since they are both heterosexual, instead of making love, they sing a duet together. They also have some clever, funny, and original moments. One striking moment was when the convict thought he was about to be arrested by two uniformed cops after a duet, only to find out that the two cops had come to sing on duet night, but wouldn't even try after they heard him sing.
The ending to that particular story was melodramatic, but I really enjoyed the film when those two guys were on.
And then there was the other 2/3 of the movie, a trite film about the professional karaoke circuit, basically a Hal Needham movie with Huey Lewis instead of Burt Reynolds, filled with characters who were unrealistic, or undeveloped, or both. Huey played the part of a Karaoke Shark, hustling people in singing contests as if it were an 8-ball tournament. Fast Huey. Sigh. For the record all of these actors sing OK. That is to say they don't sing any worse than Huey Lewis. In fact, Gwyneth and Huey, although unimpressive in their solo numbers, sing a mellow duet version of Cruisin'. Gwyneth sang well enough and she is a fine actress as we all know, but she had the least credible part. It was written so poorly that she couldn't do a damned thing to make it believable.
|The Andre Braugher
character, the convict, sings great, but he didn't do his own singing.
Somebody named Arnold McCuller, however, is a helluva singer.
The Oscar committee missed a very important acting award that should have gone to the entire cast in one scene. Huey Lewis sings a numb, totally white bread version of the Joe Cocker arrangement of Feelin' Alright, the only strength of which was that it was on key.
Now I've seen karaoke contests where the REAL Joe Cocker wouldn't blow them away, but this was about like listening to Potsie sing a Lightnin' Hopkins song. The rest of the actors had to pretend it was some really hot stuff that just blew away everyone in the room.
Now that's acting!
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