Duets


Directed by: Bruce Paltrow
Written by:John Byrum
Starring: Maria Bello, Andrew Braugher, Paul Giamatti, Huey Lewis, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scott Speedman, Marian Seldes
Released: February 8, 2001
Grade: C+

Right off the bat I was comparing this film against Magnolia and found it vastly inferior.  Duets is a group of seemingly unrelated stories and characters who come together in the end for a purpose.  The purpose is karaoke.

A professional singer and hustler, Ricky Dean (Lewis) is returning to Las Vegas for a funeral.  There, he meets his daughter, Liv (Paltrow), whom he hasn't seen in over ten years.  Meanwhile, there's Todd Woods (Paul Giamatti), a salesman who travels all over America making a fortune only to have no respect from his wife and kids.  In frustration, he storms out of the house and just starts driving with no intended destination.  In the desert, he comes across hitchhiker, Reggie Kane (Braugher) who has a mysterious past.  Finally, there's Billy Hannon (Speedman) who's just found out his girlfriend is sleeping with his best friend and he heads to a bar to drown his sorrows.  There, he meets a zany singer named Suzi Loomis (Bello) who wants a lift to California and in a drunken stupor, he agrees.

We criss-cross back and forth between the three "duos" until they all converge at a $5,000 karaoke challenge in Nevada where only one will be the winner.  There was zero care factor for any of the stories and I could not have cared less how they unfolded.  I'm glad I didn't because the ending was very weak and offered little in the way of resolution.  Dumb stuff.

Gwyneth Paltrow's father, Bruce Paltrow, makes nothing of his chance behind the camera and I expect he won’t be receiving many more offers following Duets.  It's a lifeless tale that thinks it's witty when it couldn't be further from it.  Even the karaoke scenes are a bore but at least they provide a break from the main stories.

Interestingly, all the film’s stars have the opportunity to sing and all but one uses their real voice with Scott Speedman relying on voice over.  Incidentally, Speedman's role was originally written for Brad Pitt (when both he and Gwyneth were dating) but as time as shown, not all things work out.  This film is a perfect example.