Alex (Ben Stiller) and his wife Nancy (Drew Barrymore) are living out the American Dream. Alex is putting the finishing touches to his second novel, while Nancy has a successful career in publishing. When real estate agent Kenneth (Harvey Fierstein) shows them a charming old duplex, beautifully appointed, spacious and caringly refurbished, they believe they have found their dream-home. Even when they learn about the elderly upstairs tenant, a sweet little old Irish woman named Mrs Connelly (Eileen Essell), they are not particularly concerned. But Mrs Connelly is neither as frail or as easy going as Alex and Nancy expect, and their dream home is anything but.
Review by Louise Keller:
We may have seen it all before, but Duplex is an entertaining black comedy, mostly due to good performances from a charismatic cast that understands humour. It's all about the delivery and the timing. Director Danny De Vito thrives on comedy at its darkest, and if you liked films like War of The Roses or Death To Smoochy, you will have fun with this fable about newlyweds who get much more than they bargain for, when they buy their dream home.
Ben Stiller's overly anxious writer with Drew Barrymore's career-gal wife make an appealing combo, while Eileen Essell's little old Irish lady who believes that drinking is a sin, is marvellous. When we first meet Mrs Connelly, she looks as though she will not last the winter. Hard of hearing with a nasty cough, she embodies the sweet-natured grandmother of storybooks. It takes no time at all to discover that she watches television re-runs at top volume all night, is part of an elderly brass band (that practises at home) and is not at all shy to ask her new neighbours to help her with the garbage, fix the hot water system, take her shopping and effectively make their life a misery. And she has the local policeman in the palm of her hand.
All roads lead to a shady hit-man who has a day job publishing pornographic magazines. But there's plenty of fun in the meantime, as Alex is coerced into effectively becoming Mrs Connelly's puppet. Simple tasks like taking her to the bank, greengrocer and chemist, involve hours of watching her count change, individual grapes and pills, leaving little time to meet his publishing deadline. There's a set up involving Mr Peabody (Nancy's pet name for Alex's penis), a talking red parrot called 'Little Dick' and (mercy help us) mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Much of the humour could be considered politically incorrect, relying on gags about old age. Alex is trapped in the bathroom as Mrs Connelly takes a bath, while our imagination is left to run riot.
I couldn't stop laughing when news of a killer flu hits the papers, and Alex makes sure he gets infected. After passing the bug onto Nancy, the two slob all over the popcorn and visit Mrs Connelly. Of course, all their plans go awry and the humour becomes dark indeed as the house starts to tumble down, accidents happen, as they fantasise about ways to electrocute, asphyxiate, strangle or somehow kill their elderly neighbour.
The plot lets the film down somewhat, but there's plenty to smile about, and the final double twist is a ripper.
Published October 14, 2004
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DUPLEX: DVD (M)
CAST: Ben Stiller, Drew Barrymore, Harvey Fierstein, Eileen Essell
DIRECTOR: Danny DeVito
SCRIPT: Larry Doyle
RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES: N/a
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: BVHE
DVD RELEASE: October 13, 2004