Main cast: Ben Stiller (Alex Rose), Drew Barrymore (Nancy Kendricks), Eileen Essel (Mrs Connelly), Harvey Fierstein (Kenneth), Robert Wisdom (Officer Dan), and Swoosie Kurtz (Jean)
Director: Danny DeVito
Duplex is a movie that tries to be a dark comedy but fails miserably because it doesn’t what to do with itself. This movie is about newlyweds Alex Rose and Nancy Kendricks buying a duplex that comes with a tenant, the elderly Mrs Connelly. However, Mrs Connelly turns out to be the tenant from hell as she does everything from intruding on the couple’s lives every single minute, calling the cops on them, turning up the volume of the TV in the middle of the night, and more. It isn’t long before Alex loses the book he is writing along with his contract and Nancy to get fired from her job thanks to Mrs Connelly, and soon our couple is contemplating the murder of the old woman.
I don’t know what this movie is trying to do, really. Mrs Connelly is truly despicable and she deserves to be choked to death, but at the same time, the movie seems afraid to make Alex and Nancy antiheroes to root for. Alex sees Ben Stiller turning on a lazy performance in his usual “let’s drawl out my words and call this cynicism” gig, and his Alex displays a condescending contempt towards Nancy that I find hard to watch. Drew Barrymore and Ben Stiller have no chemistry – not only are they visually incompatible, the different ways both of them act – Mr Stiller just rolls up his eyes and sighs with a sneer on his lips, while Ms Barrymore throws everything she has enthusiastically in her role. But the most perplexing thing here is that I am supposed to suspend my disbelief regarding this couple’s apparent inability to sue Mrs Connelly out of her apartment while accepting the movie’s predictable twist towards the end.
Duplex becomes increasingly implausible, only to do a turnaround and tell me that hey, it’s actually plausible because of the plot twist, but it doesn’t quite work. It manages to get a few chuckles out of me, but call me more perplexed than anything.