Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Bruce Paltrow|
|Produced by||John Byrum
|Screenplay by||John Byrum|
|Music by||David Newman|
|Editing by||Gerald B. Greenberg|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|Running time||112 minutes|
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. The movie "revolves around the little known world of karaoke competitions and the wayward characters who inhabit it."
Ricky Dean (Huey Lewis) is a hustler on the karaoke circuit who travels from town to town. At the beginning of the film, he is in Tulsa on his way to a big competition in Omaha with a $5,000 first prize.
He is detoured by a phone call and travels to Las Vegas for the funeral of an old friend. While there, he meets up with long-lost daughter Liv (Gwyneth Paltrow), who decides she wants to join him on the road.
When he gets home, his wife Candy (Kiersten Warren) and two kids are too self-absorbed to even say hello. Todd goes out for a pack of cigarettes, gets sidetracked and discovers karaoke. In the process he makes a new friend, hitchhiker Reggie Kane (Andre Braugher), a fugitive convict on the lam. Woods tells Reggie what he feels is wrong: "Our society lacks finesse."
The film then introduces Billy (Scott Speedman), a young man who drives a cab and finds himself involved with sexy Suzi Loomis (Maria Bello). She is on her way to California, and she is in a hurry. At first, Billy does not want to help, but Suzi says, "I'm gonna be the only major thing that has happened to you in your life, and you're gonna be jerking off to my memory on your goddamned death bed!" But what actually inspires Billy to help is his finding out that Suzi's bravado is hollow when he finds her sitting on the floor in the Ladies Room, vomiting in the toilet, because she is scared to death to perform and compete for the $5,000.00.
Ultimately, karaoke becomes the vehicle through which this eclectic group commences to discover exactly what it is each of its members are looking for. All of them eventually travel to Omaha, site of a national karaoke competition, where this group of singers comes together for a sing-off.
The characters use both music and the people they meet in the karaoke bars as a way to alleviate the pressures of life and in the process connect with one another. Each displays unique talents while performing many well-known cover songs throughout the film.
Before the performance, Reggie suggests Woods return to his earlier life, even as Woods claims to his wife that he is done with his earlier life. As Reggie and Woods enter the hall, Reggie notices the gathering of policemen looking for him. He is the last person to go on stage and sings a brief song as a tribute to his brief friendship with Woods. As the song ends and policemen enter the hall, Reggie pulls out a gun and is shot by the cops. Woods rushes onstage and Reggie says to him, "And they say our society has lost its finesse." Reggie then tells Woods to go home, and dies.
The film ends just as Woods, with his wife, inquires at the travel desk of an airline if they will allow him to use his 800,000 frequent flier miles to book their tickets home, to which the desk employee replies in the affirmative and Woods smiles and repeats Reggie's dying words, "And they say that our society has lost its finesse."
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 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." Kenneth Turan, film critic for the Los Angeles Times, described the film: "six characters in search of a movie. Any movie will do..."
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."
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."
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."
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 seven weeks. The production budget was $16,000,000.
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|
|Released||September 12, 2000|
The actors who sang their own tunes in the film, and included in 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 and five weeks at #1 in New Zealand, and Paltrow's "Bette Davis Eyes" also successful in both countries.
|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|
- Duets at the Internet Movie Database.
- Ebert, Roger. Chicago Sun-Times, film review, September 9, 2000. Last accessed: December 12, 2007.
- Turan, Kenneth. Los Angeles Times, film review, "Nothing Much to Sing About," September 15, 2000.
- Graham, Bob. San Francisco Chronicle, page C-3, "Ordinary Folks Find Their Voices, 'Duets' a fable set in karaoke bar," September 15, 2000.
- Variety September 8, 2000.
- Zacharek, Stephanie. Salon, film review, September 15, 2000.
- The Numbers box office data. Last accessed: December 12, 2007.