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DUPLEX
Directed by Danny DeVito
Miramax, in release

"It would be nice not to write at Starbucks with the other novelists," muses scribe Alex (Ben Stiller) upon deciding to buy the titular chunk of Brooklyn real estate with his magazine editor wife Nancy (Drew Barrymore). Soon coffeehouse laptop-slapping is the least of his worries, as upstairs tenant Mrs. Connelly (Eileen Essell) plagues them with nocturnal TV marathons, an endless list of maintenance woes, and of course her brass-band rehearsals. (Having sweet-talked Alex into accompanying her on an errand outing, she proceeds to count out pills, pennies, and produce in distended geezer time.) A bitter little fable of rent control and its discontents, Duplex moves rapidly into darkness and claustrophobia, as Alex and Nancy's attempts to remove the cantankerous Connelly escalate in moral queasiness and disastrous results. Essell is brightly malevolent, and Stiller is perfect as the well-meaning homeowner (or as the police call him, "slumlord") capable only of ineffectual stammerings and driven to murderous thoughts. He also nails the anxieties of the not-too-terribly-famous artiste: When Mrs. C. asks about his first novel, he explains, "It's about three generations of this family in New York who own this printing press," and she cuts him off just as he realizes how ridiculous it sounds. ED PARK


THE EVENT
Directed by Thom Fitzgerald
ThinkFilm, opens October 3

Thom Fitzgerald's maudlin pro-euthanasia paean stars Parker Posey as a heartless lawyer investigating the particulars of a suicide bash thrown for a young musician, Matt Shapiro (Don McKellar), dying of AIDS. By film's end she learns that legal due process is no match for the collective deception of Matt's friends and family, who cover up his suicide and then redress the AIDS crusade, seemingly forgotten by the public, by passing out flyers near ground zero. Shot on crummy DV and told via flashbacks, the film largely plays out like a Reagan-era Citizen Kane. Common sense wrecks even the film's funniest bit, and the director's nausea-inducing camera observes the hysteria in perpetual pan-and-scan. Though he strains to give the film a questionable 9-11 context, Fitzgerald seems more concerned with evoking Matt's death from multiple perspectives than with addressing the political implications of the mass suicides the characters allege are overwhelming Chelsea. ED GONZALEZ


FRIENDS & FAMILY
Directed by Kristen Coury
Regent, opens October 3

Unidimensional partners Stephen and Danny (Greg Lauren and Christopher Gartin) face a surprise visit from Danny's parents, which threatens to expose the couple's secret—not that they're gay (no secret there), but that they're hit men for Mafia boss Tony Lo Bianco. Upping the agita ante, Dad (Frank Pellegrino, reprising his Sopranos role) works undercover for the FBI, and the padrone's daughter is engaged to the son of right-wing militia freaks (Patrick Collins and—God help us—Tovah Feldshuh). First-timer Coury's fast pace can't outrun Joseph Triebwasser's predictable script, saddled with mobster clichés and queer stereotypes. To wit, or lack thereof: A Judy-quoting queen helps mob thugs pass as gay by showing them Liberace videos and teaching them to snap, "Two words, honey: puh-leeze!" My thoughts exactly. JORGE MORALES


CONCERT FOR GEORGE
Directed by David Leland
Warner Bros., opens October 3

Both a heartwarming tribute to the late Beatle and a study of hair patterns in the aging British male, Concert for George, recorded at the Royal Albert Hall a year to the day after Harrison's death, manages both reverence and joy. Eric Clapton directs an army of performers, including Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, and an energizing Billy Preston. Musical guru Ravi Shankar contributes an intricate elegy, Ringo is on hand, and one almost wishes Paul McCartney could have done the whole evening solo: He chips a lesser Harrison number, "For You Blue," into a gem, rescales "Something" into a ukulele number. Elsewhere, the sound is dense (four drummers, countless guitarists) but crisp, and the troupe pushes through even the knottier Harrisongs ("Let's hear about God realization for a change," from his last recording, in 2001, doesn't exactly trip off the tongue). Amidst the crooning codgers is George's son, Dhani, who says little but looks hauntingly, beautifully like his father circa Hard Day's Night. E.P.

 
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