Flawless Blu-ray Review

Just in time for the emergence of Caitlyn Jenner, Olive Films has released the 1999 MGM film “Flawless.”

Walt (DeNiro) is a former security guard, now retired after an injury suffered during a heroic act (he even has a letter from Ed Koch). He lives in a tenement hotel/apartment building in which most of the other residents are hookers, drug dealers or, in the case of Rusty (Hoffman) a drag queen. Conservative Walt is not very PC in talking to Rusty and his friends. However, when fate steps in, Walt will need Rusty and company more than he knows.

Robert DeNiro, Philip Seymour Hoffman in Flawless

Written and directed by Joel Schumacher – the film has no opening credits but while I was watching it I kept thinking to myself, “this is something Joel Schumacher would direct” – the film brings Walt and Rusty (who entertains as “Busty Rusty”) together when Walt has a stroke and is advised that singing lessons is an excellent form of therapy. So opposites are thrown together and eventually find a mutual respect. A subplot is that someone that lives in the building has stolen a pile of money from the local bad guy, and he sends his goons from apartment to apartment beating everyone in their way in the hopes of recovering it. A whole lot of things going on here.

Familiar with the story, I was surprised DeNiro did a film like this until Walt had his stroke. Of course, knowing DeNiro loves to do challenging things (Frankenstein’s monster, trying to cry on film) I was surprised no longer. He gives a solid performance, gradually gaining some of his speech back (and thankfully, he never resorts to the horrible mumbling/yelling that Antony Hopkins did in “Legends of the Fall”). Hoffman, still finding his way in Hollywood, makes Rusty a tough talking, yet vulnerable, character. His mannerisms are big but not over the top, which is very important in doing a role like this. Like the previous years’ “To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar,” the film allows drag queens to exist in the everyday world. The film’s title comes from a yearly contest held among the drag contestants.

Robert DeNiro, Philip Seymour Hoffman in Flawless

The film is shocking by today’s standards due to the language used, as well as dated thanks to references to Dr. Jack Kevvorkian to Jesse Helms to Wolf Blitzer. It’s like watching “Blazing Saddles” for the first time – you have to sit back and ask, “were they really allowed to say that?” The supporting cast, which includes Wilson Jermaine Heredia and Daphne Rubin-Vega, fresh from the Broadway cast of “RENT,” also turns in solid performances. And I was so happy to see Barry Miller, who I loved in “Saturday Night Fever” and “Fame” and who I hadn’t seen on film in ages (in fact, this was his second to last film role).


Video: Presented in a 1:83.1 aspect ratio, the picture is really only acceptable.. The bright colors, which make up a lot of Rusty and his friends’ world, appear dull.

Audio: The soundtrack is delivered in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and is well mixed, though I would suggest turning up the volume to catch all of DeNiro’s mutterings.

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