God bless him, that Joel Schumacher. He jumps right in the fray, just asking for it from wittier-than-thou critics, by titling his latest film Flawless. Let's see. Flaw-full? How about Flaw-riffic?
Truth is, there are plenty of flaws in Flawless. Plenty. It is a hackneyed revision of As Good As It Gets; the climax is beyond bizarre; and its p.c. message is irritating. On the plus side, Philip Seymour Hoffman puts in a dedicated and earnest performance, and there are some truly funny moments.
Robert De Niro stars as Walt "Waldo" Koontz, a retired cop and one-time hero, who lives in a decrepit New York City hotel, whiling away the hours by playing poker and dancing the tango. He is the very definition of a man's man, and he lives by a strict code that demands that he call a whore a whore and a fag a fag in order to ever-so-slightly lift himself above those teeming masses he lives among.
Then Walt has a stroke. His right side is paralyzed and his speech is stymied to the point where he can't yell out his slurs. A proud man, he is depressed and suicidal. He can't face the world where he once swaggered, so he becomes a recluse. Somehow, somewhere, however, he finds the courage to ask for help. He starts physical therapy, and his therapist suggests singing lessons to help his speech. He decides to call on Rusty Zimmerman (Hoffman), his drag queen neighbor, with whom he's had numerous run-ins. Rusty, who needs the money for an upcoming pageant, takes him on. Their relationship is a stormy one, with lots of name-calling and shouting. And even as Walt's speech progresses, his attitude doesn't. It will take a crisis to fill the chasm between them.
One crisis coming right up. This one involves a tailor's dressing mannequin, stolen drug-dealer money, a steel-plated door, and a frantic Rusty scrambling up a rain-soaked fire escape in a sequin dress and heels.
As a whole, Flawless is a little too busy to be meaningful, and that business all but drowns out Schumacher's message that a person's problems may be different from his fellow but the pain still hurts the same.