Duets (2000) Poster

(2000)

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9/10
This movie is precious. It grows on you and won't go away.
douglaswilson10 January 2007
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.
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9/10
"I'm different now... I sing--"
jhclues4 March 2002
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.
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8/10
Wonderful! Charming, uplifting, and real. The beautiful music is a bonus...
bopdog21 September 2000
"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. Go see it-- it has tons of heart, and soul. You'll like it. I gave it an 8 out of 10.
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Guilty pleasure.
budmassey17 May 2001
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.
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6/10
Not great, but entertaining – and well worth it to see Braugher and Giamatti in action
FilmOtaku13 March 2005
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 clichéd 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
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7/10
A little perfection
Quinoa198423 September 2000
This film brings some great things to it, actually 3 things- Paul Giamatti's performance, Huey Lewis's performance and every good singing person who (besides Lewis) surprised me with they're talents. Overall, the karaoke scenes overshadow the dramatic trio of tales (except for the free bird story with Giamatti and Andre Braugher) which is unfair because the talent on stage is somewhat better than the acting (Maria Bello is pretty damn sexy though). Overall, it's fair, more of a chick flick to say. B
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6/10
Look for Michael Buble in a cameo...
A_Different_Drummer31 August 2014
... before he became a Vegas act.

To be honest, this movie is one of those rare films which is remembered better as nostalgia (based on seeing when in came out in 2000) than when re-viewing (pardon the pun) some 14 years later.

And if I can explain that oddness to you, I believe I can get to the nub, the heart, of DUETS. So I will try.

The first time I saw it, I loved it. I recommended it. I made a mental note that this was a sleeper, a really nice little indie. I wanted to see it again.

It took 14 years for me to get a chance to revisit the film but, on a second viewing, I was not that impressed at all. Here are my notes:

* Paul Giammatti steals this film but that is hardly news, he pretty much steals every film he has ever been in, this script simply gives him more room to move

* the part that Bruce Paltrow cast his daughter in is simply ... bizarre. There are many many ways to play a young girl who meets her wayward father late in life but somehow I don't think this is one of them. Gwen has never looked better and her looks actually distract from the role, aided and abetted by the director having her slink here and there whenever the chance presents itself. This is wrong on many levels.

* the cameos are all interesting and the stories are all interesting but other than the aforesaid performance by Giamatti, they simply fall apart the longer the viewer has endure them.

* on second viewing, I realized that what I liked so much about the film originally was the whole Karioke theme, that this theme has astonishingly been underplayed in movies (boy is that rare!) and it shouldn't be, because it has legs. The first scene in the script with Huey Lewis is the strongest with the most impact, and understand THAT IS NOT A GOOD THING because the story and the film go downhill from there.
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10/10
More versatality from Gwyneth!
jessie-3916 September 2000
We loved the movie. It was very funny, poignant, sweet and the cast of characters was perfect. Gwyneth was fantastic and she sings great. I wasn't sure it was her, but today I read that she did it all. It was great see Huey Lewis, missed him for a long time. The other characters were also very funny and the music was super. We are going out to by the soundtrack after the weekend. Hooray for a great night of fun. That is what movies are for.Maria Bello and Andre Braugner were just perfect fits for their parts.
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6/10
Wonderfully mediocre!
subego10 March 2009
Yes I know, its a movie about the world of amateur singers and the disparate personalities that flock from around the country to win the big jackpot. If you are reading this then chances are that you have already seen the movie so there is no need to rehash it now. The one thing that I truly enjoyed, however, was the absolutely believable friendship that develops between the characters of Todd Woods and Reggie Kane. Sure, there are other good aspects of this movie, such as surprisingly good acting from Huey Lewis and a very low key, quirky representation of his daughter, played by Gwenneth Paltrow. This movie didn't enchant the critics upon its release...and judging by its box office performance, not much of the country either...but there is something very sublime about, not only the subject matter, but also the method in which this movies elements were pieced together...much like a dramatic jigsaw puzzle. What really made this movie special for me though was the ending. Reggie Kane's final performance and the aftermath...especially with regards to Todd's wife, almost made me weep. I found it very moving and genuine in its execution, and the low-key nature if the acting simply enhanced those qualities. So, to sum up: mediocre movie that has some really great nuances that combine to make a movie that, though slow and draggy at times, makes up for those lapses with the end results. P.S. as usual, Paul Giamatti is perfect! Everything that he gets involved with...with the possible exception of that "re-envisioned" Planet of the Apes...ALWAYS is made better by his presence!
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9/10
The most sweetest movie sadly - underrated
talemunja29 December 2012
The Duets is very charming, relaxing film. You can take your popcorn, sit back and enjoy adventure of middle age man who decided to put some action in his life and for sure many people will laugh hardly recognizing themselves and their funny moments in frustrations :)

I don't want to spoil anything, you just watch this and enjoy in flow of sweet polite characters here and their story.

Well, we all are sick from violence and swearing in movies and they are worst year by year so i hope you see this one and fill brain with joy,honesty and love. You can find that in The Duets. For sure.

If IMDb allows me to share beautiful music video from this movie it will be great:

https://vimeo.com/47710464
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5/10
This IS a Karaoke Movie.
Brogan4 October 2000
DUETS takes an interesting and unusual cast of character actors, mixes them up and puts them in a film where groups of characters will all meet up by the end. Instead of it being a political rally like in the Robert Altman classic NASHVILLE, the gathering is a karaoke contest in Topeka, Kansas. It seems that director Bruce Paltrow in stepping into the shoes of Robert Altman, but his results aren't as satisfying. There are three different stories in DUETS, which switch back and forth between each other, instead of making them into segments. The first story is about a father-daughter relationship. Ricky Dean (Huey Lewis) is a con artist who cons suckers into making a bet on who can sing better at karaoke, and Ricky usually wins. Ricky finds out that his ex-wife, or ex-lover (the story doesn't really explain) has just passed away and he meets Liv (Gwyneth Paltrow) a young woman who happens to be his daughter. Ricky heads off to Topeka to compete in the karaoke contest, with Liv following him, against his wishes. It turns out that Liv is quite a singer herself, and impresses Ricky. The second story deals with a workaholic man name Todd (Paul Giamatti). Todd goes from city to city and staying in different hotels so often that he forgets what city he is in. When Todd is at home in surban California he decides to go for drive to get some cigarettes, and keeps on drivng, to Santa Fe. There he is persuaded by a pretty young woman to give karaoke a shot. He does and he loves it, he loves it so much that he changes his attitude, from stiff-shirted to free minded. Todd then picks up a hitchhiker, Reggie (Andre Braugher) a criminal on the run who winds up singing karaoke with Todd to hide from the authorities. The third story deals with a young aspiring cab company owner in Cleveland (Scott Speedman) who after catching his wife sleeping with his best friend, decides to drink his worries away. At one of the bars, he meets Suzi (Maria Bello) a young and pretty woman who wants to become a professional singer, and she'll do anything without regret (including sexual acts) to become famous. In fact, Suzi will do sexual acts just to avoid paying for things. By the end of the film all of these people meet in Topeka and the climax isn't that exciting. I found DUETS to be a film that has great acting. All of the cast, including Huey Lewis, Gwyneth Paltrow and Paul Giamaiit to be enjoyable. If I said it once, I'll say it again, Huey Lewis isn't only an underrated singer, but also an underrated actor. You don't believe me, then see Robert Altman's SHORT CUTS and see for yourself. But what ruins DUETS is it's plot and plot structure. It's all too familar. DUETS appears to be a film that Robert Altman would consider to be too "commercial" so Bruce Paltrow takes over to make a too typical film. And even if the plot structure isn't like Altman, the plots of the multiple characters come out like a movie made for t.v. What's pretty amazing is that all of the actors are pretty darn good singers (except for Andre Braugher, which is reported to have a voice over for his singing). Gwyneth Paltrow takes her acting to a new level by becoming a singer, and she is a good singer. I'm thinking that former beau Brad Pitt is intimidated by now that the girl he made famous by dating her didn't only win a Oscar, but is a good singer. And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why a distinguished actress like Gwyneth Paltrow decided to star in this film (look at her last name and the director's). Paul Giamatti who is a very enjoyable character actor in HOWARD STERN'S PRIVATE PARTS, THE NEGOTIATOR, and THE TRUMAN SHOW shows off his talent further by being another good singer. And Maria Bello, who was recently in both PAYBACK and COYOTE UGLY shows that she too can carry a tune. But when you put these actors up along with Huey Lewis, it's like having amateur dancers dance aside with Fred Astire or Gene Kelly. In other words Huey Lewis does stand out with his singing, you just want to hear him sing more songs for the rest of the movie. But of couse, Paltrow wants to carry on with the story which makes it muddle. Overall, DUETS does have good acting, and good singing. But it's the plot that makes it an unimpressive film. If Bruce Paltrow changed the plot structure, the character's, and add some unexpected surprises , it would have been more interesting, but it isn't. The best way to describe DUETS is this: DUETS is like karaoke, we all know the words, it's just sung in a different way. *** (out of five)
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2/10
Made me want to chuck the microphone at the TV
yupini23 September 2005
As soon as I finished watching this film, I felt provoked to come onto IMDb and write my very first review because I was so compelled that nobody should ever have to endure such garbage in their short lives. I never ever want to sing Karaoke ever. Why? 1. Gwyneth Paltrow must have taken on the role just because Bruce Paltrow was directing...no other way would an A-lister sacrifice themselves to burn so badly. Or participate in a karaoke film without being able to sing. 2. The plot...couldn't find it! Just telling the story of random people with no significance or emotion. You know it's bad when they need to pull the 'guns and sex' action to get the viewers interested again. Only, you just don't get why they need to show sex or shoot in the first place. It just detracts from the easy style of the film. So wrong. 3. The singing. Enough said. 4. That overworked people with unloving families need to go away and get high...pierce their ears and enter karaoke competitions. Nu-uh. I really could go on forever...the only good thing about the film was that FINALLY after waiting and waiting for some sort of climax, the film ended. Without climax i might add. Watch this at your own risk to see how bad it is. Even popcorn, toffee apples, ice cream, cola and lollies won't distract you from the banality you face in Duets.
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3/10
Way off key
MartianOctocretr524 July 2006
When somebody mixed chocolate and peanut butter, they invented a great candy bar. Trying to mix the karaoke fad with high drama is just difficult to swallow.

This movie tries to inject excitement, dramatic conflict and tension into karaoke, which is nothing more than a fun diversion. Karaoke enthusiasts don't take it or themselves seriously, yet this movie tries to make it something deep and melancholy. It just doesn't work in that context. The film concocts subplots, interweaves them, and somehow stirs them all up together with karaoke as some kind of symbolic catalyst. It introduces characters on their way to a big bucks contest, and casts them into chaotic situations (some even gratuitously violent) along the way.

The resulting movie is akin to the worst karaoke singer of all time, who doesn't know all the words, screeching a Madonna hit at the top of their lungs.

I like Paul Giamatti, but his mid-life crisis character who is borderline wacko is grossly overstated and out of place. The road trip story with him and a convict just gets more and more contrived and senseless as it progresses. The pairing of Huey Lewis and Gwyneth Paltrow as father and daughter provides a wonderful rendition of "Cruisin'," but not much substance for a story. Huey is a "karaoke hustler"(!) If there is such a thing, I haven't seen one in years of karaoke singing. Other characters are dull and forgettable.

Ill conceived and recklessly executed, this story is totally out of tune, and overwhelms the film's positive elements. The karaoke contests were fun, with some amusing moments. The actors all really put their best effort here, but are drowned out by a script that is just one big cacophony of pointless noise.

A girl I met at a karaoke place and I thought this would be fun to see on our first date. I wish I could have taken a picture of the look on her face as we left the theater. It was the most hilarious expression I ever saw; far more entertaining than this movie was.
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10/10
MY EDITOR CALLED ME
arjunflamingfeather29 December 2018
OBVIOUSLY, the story of KARAOKE is a little ok. We in our country listen to breeze between both our ears. Like drinking two beers and being caught by a lie detector. We are in front of the computer with spectacles and eating liver fry.
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I always liked this movie
Haven't watched Duets for quite a while but took it out the other day for a treat. I always liked this movie for really one reason. It's different. I mean seriously... a movie about a karaoke hustler? Who ever heard of a singing hustler. There are a few problems with it. Gynetth Paltow... wow, a really horrible performance. They could have gotten any amateur actress to do the role and it would have come out the same. The story has some huge holes as well. When Todd (Paul Giamattie) and Reggie (Andre Braugher) are in the convenience story and Todd pulls the gun, it is implied that they either shoot or kill the store clerk. When the police come looking for Reggie in the final scene and kill him, they would have figured out already that Todd was with Reggie and was the second person in the store. Todd would have been arrested for his part in the murder. But no one even questions him and he goes on with his life knowing he took part in the murder of an innocent man. Also the part of Suzi Loomis (Maria Bello) is despicable. She offer sexual favors to any man to get something in return and Billy (Scott Speedman) think she's a pig - but in the end they end up together. Any normal guy would stay away from this girl or go get a shot of penicillin. But he ends up with. No matter, this is one film I'll pull out again in a year and watch and still enjoy it.
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8/10
Makes you feel.
throne-phoenix16 September 2016
Good film similar in structure to Love Actually. It has the same main plot issues in that each subplot does not get fully fleshed out, however, that is easily made up in the range of stories and subsequently, then number of viewers that can relate. To be honest, I believe the writers did well enough that most folks can easily relate to more than one of the subplots.

There was some sub par acting, but those performances were carried by the expected excellence of Paul Giamatti and Andre Braugher. As fantastic as their performances were, they were not the sole reason it gets 8 out of 10.

This film will make you feel; So, by rule, it gets 8 out of 10 stars.
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3/10
Kara-yucky
hooray4prozac29 December 2001
Warning: Spoilers
SPOILERS The thing that made "Duets" really stink is the fact that it centered around karaoke. I've been to karaoke clubs. It hasn't been "cool" since about 1989 and nobody there is that excited about it, especially the people who run the contests. Maria Bello's character was the biggest skank ever. We never really knew why she needed to get to California, but were supposed to accept the fact that she planned to blow her way across America. Her escort was just along for the ride, and since I suppose they realized that the audience would never fathom these two together, they had to tack on a flirtation with Gwyneth Paltrow at the end. Who won the big karaoke tournament? We never found out because Andre Braugher had to blow his brains out onstage. He didn't seem that depressed. My guess is the morbidly obese guy. He had more style in his left stretch mark than any other character in the movie.
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Weak Father, Strong Daughter
tedg26 June 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

I love films that are about themselves. Here is a father who is in show business, with a daughter who is entering show business. They have been apart, and now come together emotionally and professionally. And what do they do? Make a film with the same story.

The story is about performers by performers, It straddles the point between when they are `on' and when they have their regular lives. No surprise that the `on' times are good and the `off' times less so. What I like about this film is the unintended effect that it is pretty poorly crafted when dealing with all the `off' scenes. But that's just so perfectly self-referential.

I am not a fan of Gwyneth's. (I was surprised to learn in my research that there is actually a `hate Gwyneth' crowd, hung on some foolish semiotics.) But I thought she did well in `Emma,' where she added an underlying performance to the sanctifed words of Austen. Here her part is so poorly defined, underwritten, and dare I say so poorly directed by Dad, that it gives her room to add her own depth. That also is wondrously self-referential.
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9/10
A Superb, Easy Watch.
xpat-5519225 March 2019
A stellar cast and a choice of engaging stories and characters carried this movie off. All of the leads took their roles to the edge with Paul Giamatti and Andre Braugher's side story being the heaviest diversion. Thoroughly recommended. A1+++++.
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It could have been better
guyfairey24 August 2016
To be quite direct, this movie was terrible, yet we learned two things. First Huey Lewis, though I love his music, just cannot act. Secondly, sorry to say, but Gwyneth Paltrow cannot sing. This film about the karaoke world often is inconsistent and wrong. Giamatti does a great job with his convict partner, but outside of that, don't wait too long for the good scenes. There are not many. It is sad that of all of the great songs written for duets and otherwise, the writers chose some of the poorest titles for this movie. The film makes little sense, and is just a bad attempt at entertaining. As the grand world winds down to Omaha, there is nothing but discord and rather poor plots in an attempt to make something of this mess. This is a comedy, but there is very little to smile about.
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6/10
disparate nice characters
SnoopyStyle30 May 2016
Ricky Dean (Huey Lewis) hustles karaoke like a pool shark. He reconnects with his estranged daughter Liv (Gwyneth Paltrow) and go on the road together. Todd Woods (Paul Giamatti) is a struggling traveling businessman and family man. He picks up hitchhiking escaped convict Reggie Kane (Andre Braugher). Billy (Scott Speedman) is a heartbroken cabbie who picks up Suzi Loomis (Maria Bello). The three duos are headed for a national karaoke competition in Omaha.

It's a bunch of people in this small world of competitive karaoke. The good is that it treats this world sincerely. The characters are rather scattered and doesn't necessarily add up to an exciting story. Ricky and Liv have a nice father and daughter story. Woods and Kane are going crazy. It does have some good singing from surprising sources especially Paltrow and Braugher. This movie is very much like karaoke. You get surprised at how good some of the singing turns out to be but the intangible substance is not always there.
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5/10
Disappointing because of how much better it could've been
For comedy/dramas or "dramedies" as one might call this form of film, the blend of humor and human characters is essential to creating believable story lines. The way of going about this has been done multiple ways. A frequently picked method of execution is "the separate story threads conjoining at the finale" direction. Although not anything new, it is a common way of telling individual stories that share a common theme and then bring them together at the end for one grand congregation. The most recent movie that came to mind when thinking of this type of storytelling goes to John Herzfeld's Reach Me (2014). Although entirely stepped on by official critics, it wasn't entirely a waste of a film. It was quick on the draw for certain parts of its script but it also had a positive overall message about improving oneself as a person using unique characters. In some respects, the way this movie was presented felt somewhat in the same vein.

Different groups of people from various areas of the U.S. enter a karaoke contest in the hopes of being awarded $5,000 as the winner. Along their travels, they learn things about themselves and each other. Sounds simplistic enough right? It is in fact, but this is not the problem. The issue lies underneath all that once looked at under a closer lens. The screenplay, written by John Byrum (The Razor's Edge (1984) and Mahogany (1975)) suffers from three factors. One is that the movie cannot find a clear tone in its entirety and its three independent story lines. One story is about a selfish karaoke hustler named Ricky Dean (Huey Lewis) who discovers after his distant wife passed away left him his daughter Liv (Gwyneth Paltrow). Then there's Todd Woods (Paul Giamatti), a rundown salesman who gets tired of the same old same old and leaves his life behind while running into just released convict Reggie Kane (Andre Braugher). Lastly is Billy (Scott Speedman), a guy who just got cheated on and discovers new girl Suzi Loomis (Maria Bello) who has a knack for getting what she wants by sacrificing her dignity.

It's difficult to say which story feels the most sympathetic. The father/daughter struggle could've been heartwarming all the way through but instead is kicked around as a nuisance and is only quickly reconciled later on. The adventure salesman/convict thread only seems to get more uncontrollably rash and negatively misunderstood the longer the characters are on screen. As for the lonely guy/new girl parable, the play out often feels like a dark raunchy comedy that was meant for another film entirely. With all the inconsistent tones, the film as a whole doesn't work that well. What exactly are you trying to be movie? Unfortunately with the confusing tone brings up the second issue with the screenplay and that's the story lines not complimenting each other in some way. How does one find a comparison between these three- mismatched story threads? Finally, the last issue (which is probably the biggest and most noticeable) is that the whole concept of karaoke isn't of main focus for a lot of the running time. It's actually more of a backdrop and that's rather sad due to the pros that are about to be listed next.

As much as the problems mentioned prior bring down the film a lot, there are positives to bring up and these points at least show it had the potential to be better. For one, the acting is solid. Every main character has a certain personality and the actor portraying that character fits it nicely. Even Huey Lewis, for the small amount of times he's acted plays it cool (although arrogant). Paul Giamatti gets more and more psychotic as time progresses and his dialog gets more and more garbled. Maria Bello with a Southern accent is different and her attitude is quite sharp. This is just a few from the tip of the iceberg. Now if only the characters were actually written better. Also just for fun, there are a couple of cameos viewers may not be aware of. For one, Michael Bublé has an obvious appearance but is still fun to see him doing what he does best (singing that is). There's even a quick shot of Terminator (1984) director James Cameron having some fun. Weird but intriguing.

The cinematography was adequate too. Shot by Paul Sarossy (Exotica (1994) and The Sweet Hereafter (1997)), there's a mix of outside and inside shots. However even for inside camera-work Sarossy manages to keep the camera moving substantially without being distracting. This at least gives the audience something to look at and get an idea of where they are and the scale at which the setting is taking place. Finally the music, which is a mix of instrumental score but mostly singing was good. The best part of this film is seeing the actors actually sing. Other than Huey Lewis (for obvious reasons) singing, who knew Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Giamatti, Andre Braugher and Maria Bello could sing so well? It was very believable and certainly made the performance feel a tad more emotional. Again though, if only those characters were written better. The best sung song from the film would be the popular single "Cruisin'" (originally by Smokey Robinson) covered by Huey Lewis and Gwyneth Paltrow. A very smooth and enjoyable song. The score produced by familiar composer David Newman was also appropriate. It was anonymous but useful for the scenes required, this time.

Sadly even with catchy songs sung legitimately by the actors, good camera-work and solid acting, the entire execution is just a hodgepodge of ideas that don't coalesce as easy as it should have. The individual story lines don't match in tone, which doesn't make the film understandable in its message and the whole concept of karaoke isn't focused on like the premise promotes. It had potential but wasn't utilized properly.
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3/10
Watchable? Yes! Believable? I don't think so!!
Twins6521 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Well, I finally watched "Duets", almost FIFTEEN YEARS after it came out. I do have an excuse, as it was on STARZ recently, and I was laid up sick. I probably could have been OK by waiting another fifteen years until 2030 to see it, but it was accomplished. And I don't really have too much good to say about it, other than it looked like Paul Giamatti was starting to get into A-One form for his manic upcoming lead role in "Sideways" a couple years later, and if that was the case, it was worth it (for him, anyway).

The whole "Competitive Karaoke Circuit" plot line was too far-fetched to believe, even if does (or did) exist in the late 90's. People travelling around for winner's prize money that wouldn't even come close to covering expenses…NO WAY!

And don't even get me started on the big finale, where Andre Braugher's character gets blown away in front of an audience. Had it been a real event, it would have been a downright horrific event for someone to witness in a packed bar, yet nobody seems to be even slightly affected by it the next day as they all leave the hotel…WTF??

Stay away from this, unless you're a fan of Giamatti.
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When they sing,their life start change to better.
viccbitovski22 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This is so underrated movie Five point something.Come on...... What I do like it about this movie is that its gotta soul of its own. Six characters ,trying to do something in lives.What they do its singing. The meaning of their lives.One character particular has a leading role in the film.This is Todd Woods played by Paul Giamatti.His life is being out of control for so many years,always on the run,traveling on the airports,without knowing witch town is visiting , believing in the finesse of the American society.His wife at home is so busy with the computer,no sense at all for his husband.Ever since he takes the microphone and start singing Paul's life suddenly acquiring some meaning.Later on he met Reggy,fugitive from the prison, from whom got love and understanding.Both traveling across America and singing duets in the karaoke they start know each other and a new friendship is borne.Ricky Dean is a karaoke singer.His job is to bets with other people make theme believe that they are better than he is....when he met Liv,who happen to be his daughter,his life changing as well,and Billy who is a owner of half a cab,searching some harmony met a beautiful Suzi Loomis,all of them,trying to be on the final karaoke night. I think this is very enjoyable film to watch it...covered with some of the best pop-soul hits of 80s and 90s. All to all a good drama story 7/10
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7/10
Giamatti/Braugher
endymionng21 May 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Two of the best actors in the US, and my personal favorites as well. What can go wrong ? Well for one thing have the movie be a vehicle for Gwyneth Paltrow in the movie's most uninteresting storyline. If the script had just dropped that story about the lost "Dad" and fleshed out the other two stories a bit more then this movie would have been awesome. Its not that she is so bad at the singing or Lewis is an awful actor, but their story is just so boring and kliché... Still at least Giamatti and Maria Bello has since had a lot of good roles, now we just need more of Andre Braugher :-) Cant be long before we see a movie like this, just set in the world of competitive computer-gaming. That would be very weird indeed, but lets see if I am right.
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