Duets (2000)

Comedy, Drama, Music
Lochlyn Munro, Carol Alexander, Michael Rogers, Huey Lewis
A professional karaoke hustler reconnects with his daughter and a bored suburban businessman turns outlaw karaoke singer, among other plotlines.
Duets suffers from sloppy direction and stretches credibility. Also, the characters are uninteresting and it's hard to care about what happens to them.
  • 24 Nov 2000 Released:
  • 08 May 2001 DVD Release:
  • $4.3M Box office:
  • John Byrum Writer:
  • Bruce Paltrow Director:
  • N/A Website:

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Wonderful! Charming, uplifting, and real. The beautiful music is a bonus...10/10

Excellent! "Duets" is definitely outside of what I had expected it to be... it is outside of the only-on-it-for-the-money, watch-the-weekend-grosses Hollywood sell-out that everyone complains about. It is a wonderful story, full of surprises and charm. The characters are 3-dimensional, to be sure. Their stories are not always pretty, and certainly not predictable. I was always entertained, engrossed, and ultimately very uplifted. Huey lewis could make it as an actor, and Gwyneth Paltrow could make it as a singer, both without any gimmicky "pr" work to present them as a stunt. They, and the entire cast of unknown actors were top-notch here. The music is real, and means something to the movie, and it all meant a lot to me. Yaay "Duets"! Go see it-- it has tons of heart, and soul. You'll love it. I gave it a 10 out of 10.
Guilty pleasure.5/10

I often wonder why I watch so many movies, and why I love them so. It isn't because they often explore new territory or challenge my intellect, but then there's a whole public library and a Barnes and Noble in every strip mall for that. No, I think it must be the escapist delight of allowing myself to be absorbed for a couple of hours in a well-crafted imaginary world where unbelievable things happen to unrealistic people. It's a guilty pleasure, but hey, sometimes I eat my dessert first. I can handle the guilt.

With that said, as guilty pleasures go, this dessert is a banana split for two with extra nuts and cherries. And one spoon. Huey Lewis and the incomparable Gwyneth Paltrow are a father daughter team trying to get acquainted on the karaoke circuit. He's a karaoke hustler (who knew) and she's a third generation Las Vegas showgirl who is at once worldly and naive.

Paul Giamatti is a shocker. He's amazing as the frustrated salesman who's out "for a pack of cigarette." Along the way, he encounters Reggie Kane (Andre Braugher) a convict on the lam whose quiet desperation is a stark contrast to Giamatti's wanton abandon.

Maria Bello is hilarious as the resourceful bohemeian chasing a dream of big money. Angie Dickenson graces the scene with a tasty cameo. And then there's the singing. OK, Todd Rundgren isn't worried about Giamatti's rendition of the classic "Hello it's Me", and Andre used a voiceover, but Gwyneth can really sing, and her duet with Babyface in the closing credits is a chart-topper in anybody's book.

Directed by Gwyneth's dad Bruce, in his first feature since graduating from the small screen, the word "Duets" describes this enjoyable film in more ways than one. But in the end, the duet that matters is just you and this wonderful little film.
This movie is precious. It grows on you and won't go away.9/10
I admit it -- I'm a total sucker for this movie for all of the right reasons, and some of the wrong ones (like, it's very touching to me that Bruce Paltrow made this movie with his daughter Gwyneth and died a year or so later). Having Huey Lewis in the movie and singing a few of his monster hits is a plus all by itself, and it turns out he can actually act decently. The Paul Giamatti - Andre Braugher duo, both in terms of plot, their excellent acting, and their blow-you-away singing performance, is something I never tire of seeing, and I've watched this movie five times and have it on disk. The plot is superficially pedestrian but actually very engaging and psychologically legitimate despite the displays of craziness by the characters. People do get crazy and do that kind of stuff. As for Gwyneth Paltrow, there seems to be no role she can't get into and occupy with beautiful effect.

This was never intended to be a Great Movie. It was a nice little story, made into a very fine, charming, stick-to-your memory movie with talent oozing out the corners. People who rate it mediocre are just not seeing the pearl for the oyster.
Not great, but entertaining – and well worth it to see Braugher and Giamatti in action6/10
Bruce Paltrow's film "Duets" basically centers on the relationships of vastly different people who all end up at a karaoke contest in Omaha. Liv (Paltrow) meets her dad Ricky (Lewis) for the first time at her mother's funeral. Ricky is a "karaoke hustler", a guy who walks into various competitions and not only wins the cash prize, but manages to get a sucker to bet on which of them is going to win. Ricky reluctantly lets Liv tag along with him on the circuit, and along with singing herself, she also tries to forge a relationship with her father. Todd (Giamatti) is a salesman who travels most of the year and comes home to a house where his children don't talk to him and his wife would rather spend time online than talk to him after one of his business trips. One day he has a "moment of clarity" and decides to use some of the 800,000 frequent flier miles he has racked up, taking off in his car and driving anywhere but near his home. The first night he gets a room, he walks into a hotel bar and is convinced to get up on stage for their karaoke night, where he finds he loves the freedom it allows and the attention it garners him. Along the way on his trek, he picks up a hitchhiker named Reggie (Braugher) a recent parolee with the voice of an angel, and the two strike up a very close friendship despite (or possibly because of) their many differences. Finally, there is Suzi (Bello), a drifter who travels her way to karaoke contests by eschewing all dignity and selling any part of her she can. At a stopover in Cincinnati, she encounters Billy (Speedman) a former seminary student who is now a gypsy cab driver that just discovered his girlfriend sleeping with his business partner. Bello convinces him to take her to California, but along the way, the lure of the $5,000 purse in Omaha gets the best of her and they make a stop there.

"Duets" features several story lines, but other than karaoke, they all have one thing in common: They are all unhappy with either their past, their present or the prospect of a bleak or uncertain future. The film really isn't all that good, but there are a couple of good things about it. First and foremost, the chemistry between Giamatti and Braugher is fantastic. Completely casting aside the fact that they are two of my favorite actors, their connection was practically tangible. Hey, who knew Giamatti could sing, too? The rest of the stories were pretty cliched or just not very compelling at all. I wasn't sure where they were trying to go with the Suzi/Billy arc but it ended up going nowhere for me personally. Huey Lewis, nothing more than a marginally average actor does an okay job in this film, but it obviously isn't much of a stretch for him.

If you are not a fan of any of the actors, "Duets" is entertaining enough to sit through and not end up hating yourself afterward. Personally, the film deserves a slight edge because of the Giamatti/Braugher thing, but altogether, it gets a 6/10. In this case I'm rounding up from 5.5 for that edge.

--Shelly
"I'm different now... I sing--"9/10

Director Bruce Paltrow assembled an impressive ensemble cast to deliver this story about a diverse group of people with many things in common-- more than they would probably ever realize or admit to, in fact. On the surface, the tie that binds is music; specifically that cultural phenomenon known as Karaoke, a world in which for three minutes or so, no matter who or what they are, the individual at stage center is a star. Underneath that particular aspect, however, the common thread runs much deeper. Because these are people who, in their own way, are all seeking to connect with something, even though they don't know what it is or even consciously know they're pursuing it. They're looking for their personal metaphor-- that one special thing, or someone, that will give meaning and purpose to their life. It's a road we all go down at one time or another, in one way or another, and it's that road that is explored by Paltrow in `Duets,' an affecting film that illustrates how universally elusive the answers we're all seeking in life are, and for the most part because we simply don't know the questions in the first place.

Ricky Dean (Huey Lewis) is a singer/hustler on the Karaoke circuit; In Tulsa, on his way to a big competition in Omaha, he gets a call and detours through Las Vegas for the funeral of an old friend. While he's there, he meets up with someone with whom he has a special relationship, Liv (Gwyneth Paltrow), who decides she wants to join him on the road. Meanwhile, a salesman named Todd Woods (Paul Giamatti) suddenly realizes he's so burned out from being on the road that he doesn't even know what city he's in, making a pitch to a hotel conference room full of corporate types in Houston, thinking all the while he's actually in Orlando, Florida. When he finally gets home, his wife, Candy (Kiersten Warren), and his two kids are too self-absorbed to even say hello to him, so he goes out for a pack of cigarettes (even though he doesn't smoke), discovers Karaoke and makes a new friend, Reggie Kane (Andre Braugher). Then there's Billy (Scott Speedman), a young man who drives a cab (of which he is half owner), who due to a particular set of circumstances finds himself involved with one Suzi Loomis (Maria Bello), who is on her way to California, by way of the karaoke competition in Omaha. And, ultimately, Karaoke becomes the vehicle through which this eclectic bunch of individuals begin to discover just what it is they're looking for; and who among them ever would've thought it would be in Omaha, Nebraska?

Working from an intricate and insightful screenplay by John Byrum, Paltrow has crafted an engrossing comedy/drama that is entertaining and poignant. There's a lot going on in this film, but Paltrow sets a pace that keeps it moving right along, and uses transitions that effectively eliminate any confusion that could easily have resulted from having so many storylines unfolding at once. The characters are well drawn, and Paltrow establishes exactly who they are and where they fit in almost as soon as they are introduced, which enables the viewer to concentrate on the story without having to figure out who fits where and why. After all, this is not a mystery; and Paltrow uses the screen time of his characters wisely to develop the drama that is being played out in their respective lives, rather than by throwing in unnecessary twists and turns just to maintain interest. It works, because the story is interesting enough, without the aid of any superficial enhancements, and Paltrow does an excellent job of blending it all together to deliver a satisfying and emotionally involving film.

There are a number of outstanding and noteworthy performances in this film, but the most memorable is turned in by Paul Giamatti, who so successfully conveys the emptiness of this middle-aged man who has always played by the rules, and who now finds himself at a very real crossroads in his life. The fact that Todd has accrued 800,000 frequent flyer miles that he can't use, effectively puts his whole life into perspective; and Giamatti sells it with a portrayal that is affecting and incisive. And, as Reggie, the guy Todd takes up with on the road, Braugher hits just the right note, as well, and their scenes together provide some of the highlights of the film, as when they perform their duet of `Try A Little Tenderness'-- this is Karaoke at it's best.

Gwyneth Paltrow provides a few highlights here, as well; besides creating a very real, believable character in Liv, it's worth watching the film just to see her sing `Bette Davis Eyes.' But there's also an exquisite gentleness in her nature she so ably expresses that makes her decidedly easy to watch, and there's an engaging duet she delivers with Huey Lewis on `Cruisin' that's a real showstopper. It's quite interesting, in fact, to note just how well the actors in this film deliver their songs (and, yes, they all did their own singing). Other musical highlights include Braugher's `Free Bird' and Bello's rendition of `Sweet Dreams.' This entire film, in fact, just may be the best thing that ever happened to Karaoke; it definitely raises the bar and gives it some mainstream credibility.

The supporting cast includes Angie Dickinson (Blair), Lochlyn Munro (Ronny), Amanda Kravat (Redhead), Erika von Tagen (Julie) and Marian Seldes (Harriet). Early in the film, a truck driver asks a hitchhiker-- a guy just out of prison-- `What were you in for?' The guy replies, `An error in judgment.' And, in the final analysis, that's what `Duets' is really all about; the flaws, imperfections and `errors in judgment' that make up the music of life. It's about finding that right note and being able to share it with someone-- being able to perform a duet to the score of life. 9/10.