Duets (film)

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This article is about the film. For the musical form, see duet; for other uses, see duets (disambiguation)
Duets film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Bruce Paltrow
Produced by John Byrum
Kevin Jones
Bruce Paltrow
Screenplay by John Byrum
Starring Gwyneth Paltrow
Huey Lewis
Paul Giamatti
Maria Bello
Andre Braugher
Scott Speedman
Music by David Newman
Cinematography Paul Sarossy
Edited by Gerald B. Greenberg
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
Running time
112 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $16,000,000
Box office $4,739,023

Duets is a 2000 American road trip film co-produced and directed by Bruce Paltrow and written by John Byrum. The motion picture features an ensemble cast co-starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Giamatti, Maria Bello, Scott Speedman, Andre Braugher, Huey Lewis and Angie Dickinson, among others.[1] The movie "revolves around the little known world of karaoke competitions and the wayward characters who inhabit it."[1]


The story revolves around unrelated pairs of people who spend time in karaoke bars across the United States in the week leading up to a big contest in Omaha.

  • Ricky Dean (Huey Lewis) is a hustler on the karaoke circuit, who travels from town to town feigning ignorance of karaoke, then winning both the contests and side-bets with locals. He is detoured by a phone call and travels to Las Vegas for the funeral of a former lover; while there, he meets his daughter Liv (Gwyneth Paltrow), with whom he hasn't made contact for many years. Seeking a father figure after the death of her mother, she joins him against his wishes on the road, both singing solos at karaoke bars. They are involved in a bar fight when one of Ricky's marks retaliates.
  • Stressed-out California salesman Todd Woods (Paul Giamatti) is so burned out from business travel that he doesn't even know what city he's in; and when he gets home, his wife Candy (Kiersten Warren) and two children are too self-absorbed to even say hello. Exasperated, he walks out on his family and his old life, and begins to drive aimlessly around the country. He wanders into a karaoke bar in New Mexico, where a fellow participant offers him beta blockers to help him overcome his anxiety and stagefright. He gets hooked on the drugs as he keeps driving, and in Utah he picks up hitchhiker Reggie Kane (Andre Braugher), a charming but dangerous fugitive convict, who had already robbed the previous truck-driver who gave him a lift at gunpoint. The tough convict is disconcerted by Todd's addled demeanour, but the two form an unlikely and close friendship after Reggie reveals a beautiful singing voice during a duet at another karaoke bar. As they travel, Todd's mental state deteriorates further and Reggie tries his best to keep him out of trouble; he first has to drag Todd out of a hotel when he threatens the clerk with a gun; then, after Todd's erratic behaviour causes a stand-off at a service station, Reggie intervenes but shoots and kills the attendant. Reggie arranges for Candy to meet them in Omaha in an attempt to reconcile them, but when she arrives, a still addled Todd rebuffs her, saying that he is finished with his former life.
  • Cincinnati-based underachieving cab driver and one-time aspiring priest Billy (Scott Speedman) goes on a drinking binge after catching his partner cheating on him; he meets Suzi Loomis (Maria Bello), a sexy, broke drifter who gets by on karaoke contest prizes and sexual favours. He rejects her offers of sex, and neither particularly respects the other's lifestyle, but he nonetheless agrees to drive her to California, stopping at karaoke bars for Suzi to compete along the way.

All three pairs end up at the Omaha contest, each having won the right to compete there for $5,000 by virtue of winning in one of the smaller towns. Finally accepting his daughter, Ricky invites her to perform a duet with him of her mother's favourite song, Cruisin'. Billy discovers that Suzi's bravado is hollow when he finds her sitting on the floor in the ladies' room, vomiting in the toilet from stagefright, but he convinces her to compete. After Reggie sees the police arrive at the contest, investigating the service station shooting, he performs an a capella version of Free Bird before pulling a gun on stage, prompting police to shoot him; he gives Todd the opportunity to lay full blame for the service station shooting on him, and to return to his old life.

After the contest, Billy and Suzi continue on their way to California. Billy invites Liv (with whom he had been lightly flirting at the contest) and Ricky to join them, and they resolve to take a slight detour to another karaoke contest in Nevada. Todd and Candy contemplate reconciliation, but the fate of their relationship is left open.



This was the only time Gwyneth Paltrow and her producer/director father Bruce Paltrow worked together on a film project, and it was also Bruce Paltrow's last production before his death.

Brad Pitt was first cast in Speedman's role, but, after he and Gwyneth Paltrow announced the end of their off-camera romance, Pitt decided not to take the role.

Film locations[edit]

The film locations include Las Vegas, Nevada; British Columbia, Canada; and Los Angeles, California.


Critical response[edit]

Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film a thumbs down on his television program, and wrote on his newspaper review, "Duets has little islands of humor and even perfection, floating in a sea of missed marks and murky intentions."[2] Kenneth Turan, film critic for the Los Angeles Times, described the film as "six characters in search of a movie. Any movie will do..."[3]

Critic Bob Graham, writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, liked the spirit of the film and the acting, and he wrote, "Cut 'Duets' some slack. This is an appealing, and ultimately moving, ensemble comedy/drama about ordinary folks whose one chance at anything resembling stardom is a karaoke contest...The fable style is a fragile one. The Ally McBeal test probably applies here. Fans of that show are likely to give themselves over to Duets, too."[4]

Variety critic Todd McCarthy singled out Giamatti's work and character, writing, "Giamatti gets the lion's share of Byrum's good lines and if the film is to go over with auds, it will be largely due to this character and performance, which reps one of the funniest sustained rants against the lowest common denominator in American culture that has been seen in ages."[5]

Overall, many critics echoed Stephanie Zacharek's review in Salon.com. She wrote, "Its three interlocking stories don't find the right rhythmic balance, and some of the dialogue is stiff and mannered." Zacharek did praise the acting and the film's message. She added, "In that respect, the way Duets treats its characters is refreshing. There are brief moments when it reminds us that plenty of people enjoy karaoke at the expense of their audience (during one scene an Asian businessman warbles tunelessly in the background), but Duets isn't out to make anyone look ridiculous."[6]


The producers marketed the film using the following tagline:

Six lost souls in search of a little harmony.

The film was first presented at the Toronto Film Festival on September 9, 2000. When released, Duets suffered at the box office. The first week's gross sales at the box office was $2,002,588 (581 screens) and the total receipts for the run were $4,734,235.

In its widest release the film was featured in 583 theaters and the film was in circulation for seven weeks.[7] The production budget was $16,000,000.

Home media[edit]

A DVD of the film was released on May 8, 2001 by Hollywood Pictures Home Entertainment. The DVD contained additional features: a commentary track by director Bruce Paltrow and producer Kevin Jones, additional scenes, conversations with director Bruce Paltrow, and a multi-angle music video of "Cruisin'".


Duets: Original Soundtrack
Soundtrack album
Released September 12, 2000
Genre Various
Label Hollywood Records

An original motion picture soundtrack album was released on September 12, 2000 by Hollywood Records. The CD contained twelve tracks including the original music composed for the film by David Newman.

The actors who sang their own tunes in the film, and included on the CD, are: Huey Lewis, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Giamatti, and Maria Bello. Arnold McCuller sings all of Andre Braugher's songs including Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird", performed a cappella.

The soundtrack spawned two hit singles in Australasia, with Gwyneth Paltrow and Huey Lewis' "Cruisin'" spending two weeks at #1 in Australia[8] and five weeks at #1 in New Zealand,[9] with Paltrow's "Bette Davis Eyes" also becoming a top 3 hit in Australia.[10]

The Canadian crooner Michael Bublé has a cameo singing "Strangers in the Night", but it is not included on the soundtrack.

No. Title Writer(s) Performer(s) Length
1. "Feelin' Alright"   Dave Mason Huey Lewis 4:03
2. "Bette Davis Eyes"   Donna Weiss, Jackie DeShannon Gwyneth Paltrow 4:20
3. "Cruisin'"   Smokey Robinson, Marv Tarplin Gwyneth Paltrow, Huey Lewis 4:52
4. "Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)"   Norman Whitfield, Barrett Strong Babyface, Gwyneth Paltrow 4:10
5. "Try a Little Tenderness"   Jimmy Campbell, Reg Connelly, Harry M. Woods Paul Giamatti, Arnold McCuller 3:36
6. "Hello It's Me"   Todd Rundgren Paul Giamatti 4:12
7. "I Can't Make You Love Me"   Mike Reid, Allen Shamblin Maria Bello 4:22
8. "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)"   Annie Lennox, David A. Stewart Maria Bello 4:31
9. "Lonely Teardrops"   Berry Gordy, Tyran Carlo, Gwendolyn Gordy Huey Lewis 3:01
10. "Copacabana (At the Copa)"   Jack Feldman, Barry Manilow, Bruce Sussman John Pinette 3:46
11. "Free Bird"   Allen Collins, Ronnie Van Zant Arnold McCuller 1:23
12. "Beginnings/Endings"   David Newman David Newman 1:59


  1. ^ a b Duets at the Internet Movie Database.
  2. ^ Ebert, Roger. Chicago Sun-Times, film review, September 9, 2000. Last accessed: December 12, 2007.
  3. ^ Turan, Kenneth. Los Angeles Times, film review, "Nothing Much to Sing About," September 15, 2000.
  4. ^ Graham, Bob. San Francisco Chronicle, page C-3, "Ordinary Folks Find Their Voices, 'Duets' a fable set in karaoke bar," September 15, 2000.
  5. ^ Variety September 8, 2000.
  6. ^ Zacharek, Stephanie. Salon, film review, September 15, 2000.
  7. ^ The Numbers box office data. Last accessed: December 12, 2007.
  8. ^ "australian-charts.com - Gwyneth Paltrow and Huey Lewis - Cruisin'". Hung Medien. Retrieved December 6, 2014. 
  9. ^ "charts.org.nz - Gwyneth Paltrow and Huey Lewis - Cruisin'". Hung Medien. Retrieved December 6, 2014. 
  10. ^ "australian-charts.com - Gwyneth Paltrow - Bette Davis Eyes". Hung Medien. Retrieved December 6, 2014. 

External links[edit]