(1999, USA, English, 112 min)
Reviewed by Bruce Kogan
Flawless with its amazing chemistry and pluperfect performances by Robert DeNiro and Philip Seymour Hoffman is a very funny film which flows effortlessly into some dramatic moments. But very few want to talk about the social implications of it.
Philip Seymour Hoffman is a female impersonator who lives in the same apartment building as Robert DeNiro, a retired policeman who works as a security guard. During a robbery of a drug dealer, one of Hoffman's fellow drag performers is killed and DeNiro suffers a stroke trying to prevent the crime. The drug dealers can't exactly go to the police with their story, but they have other methods of dealing with transgressors.
DeNiro and Hoffman have nothing in common at all and usually confine any conversations they have with some usual shouted epithets. But DeNiro's doctor advises singing lessons as a form of speech therapy and he goes to Hoffman. They develop an unusual friendship.
More unusual because it turns out that Hoffman has the stolen loot. And why Hoffman is keeping it is a matter of life and quality thereof.
Hoffman is not dressing in drag for effect or to make money as a performer. Hoffman's real drag is the body parts God gave him because they don't match what's inside. Hoffman is a transgendered soul and the cost of a sex change operation is more than he could earn in a few lifetimes.
Here in America our insurance companies amazingly regard a sex change as cosmetic surgery. Scary idea, but true. Recently I had some talks with a transgender person from the United Kingdom. There the debate is whether their socialized medicine system should be paying for the sex change. Either way it is frightening situation that Hoffman is put in with all that cash suddenly in his possession and the chance of matching heart and soul to body can be realized.
Especially after just winning an Oscar for Capote, Philip Seymour Hoffman isn't worried about getting cast in gay roles. From the lovestruck Scotty G in Boogie Nights, to Flawless, and now to Capote, Hoffman's making one great career for himself going gay. But all three of those parts show an astonishing range and a courageous player willing to accept and master challenging roles.
Of course Robert DeNiro is great, he's never anything else. And he's back in the world of lower Manhattan that he knows so well. His character turns out to be a person of great character and more than just physical strength.
Flawless is a film that will make you laugh and cry, but even more important will make you think.