Flawless, written and directed by Joel Schumacher, is an odd-couple
picture featuring Robert DeNiro as a retired policeman and security guard called
Walt who suffers a stroke and turns for rehabilitative help to his neighbor, a
impersonator” (as he prefers to call
it) and cross-dresser called Rusty (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Rusty is to teach
him singing (which is supposed to help him learn to speak again), though of
course they soon become close friends in spite of the mutual doubt and suspicion
which obtains between them. Both Mr. DeNiro and Mr. Hoffman give excellent
performances (as we might expect) in a real
actor’s movie, but the overall concept
is too lame and obvious for it to work on any other level than as a showcase for
the stars’ talents. There is also a
subplot concerning some money stolen from a thoroughly nasty drug dealer who
thinks that Rusty has it. You can see the ending coming a mile off.

But what, we wonder, happens to the drag queen and the security guard who are
thrown together without a drug lord to provide them with an unexpected identity
of interests? Whatever it is, it is unlikely to be very much like what happens
here, which has been carefully constructed not with a view to creating
verisimilitude but only in order to make a political point. This is, in a few
words, a facile, Rodney King-style plea:
can’t we all just get
along?”—which, indeed, seems a
troubling question if you ignore the myriad of all-too-obvious reasons why we
can’t. That the liberal
self-righteousness about ignoring them is entirely bogus is illustrated in the
passage here where a delegation of gay Republicans, all dressed in suits and
ties, makes a similar sort of plea to the drag queens and Act Up types among
whom Rusty is a leading light. Here, we are obviously meant to applaud when
Rusty tells them to “f***

What’s good about the film, besides
the acting—which, to me, can never be
quite of the first quality in an inferior
drama—is its meditation on
self-deception in love, and the similarities between even the most unlike people
in this respect. Walt loudly insists that he
“go with
whores,” but his decidedly slutty
girlfriend (Wanda De Jesus) has got used to asking him for help with her rent,
and he has got used to paying her. Rusty keeps getting beaten up by his married
lover, but explains to Walt that “He
has this Italian Catholic, guilt-shame thing going. We’re working it
out,” adding that
“It won’t happen when I’m a real
woman.” Yet the film itself seems
finally to accept Rusty’s premiss that
a sex-change operation is all that is required to solve all his problems, so
even this mildly interesting point is undermined in the interest of being nice
to transsexuals.

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