USA 2000

Reviewed by John Wrathall


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Middle America, the present. In Las Vegas for the funeral of a former lover, Ricky Dean, who makes a living by hustling for cash at karaoke competitions, meets his long-lost daughter Liv who decides to follow him on the road. Cab-driver Billy Hannon discovers his girlfriend is cheating on him. Drunk in a bar, he is picked up by singer Suzi Loomis who persuades him to drive her to California for a karaoke contest. Todd Woods, a real-estate executive in the grip of a mid-life crisis, walks out on his wife and wanders into a bar where he discovers the liberating power of karaoke singing. Hitting the road, he gives a lift to ex-con Reggie Kane, who's on the run after sticking up (and apparently killing) a truck driver. In a bar, Todd introduces Reggie to karaoke. Finding Reggie's gun, Todd uses it to stick up a service station. Reggie tries to stop him. In the ensuing shootout the garage attendant is killed.

The three couples converge on a hotel in Omaha, Nebraska, for a karaoke competition. In the foyer, Billy meets Liv; they instantly fall for each other. Meanwhile the police are closing in on Reggie, who decides to take the blame for the shooting at the service station. While Reggie is on stage, police enter the auditorium. Reggie pulls out a gun and is shot dead.

Todd is reunited with his wife, who has been summoned to Omaha by Reggie. Billy and Suzi offer Ricky and Liv a lift to another karaoke competition in Nevada.


The idea of Gwyneth Paltrow and Huey Lewis duetting with Smokey Robinson's 'Cruisin'' might not seem like an immediate selling point for a movie. But Duets, set in the karaoke bars of the Midwest, actually works best in its musical moments: like the best musicals, it makes us care about the characters' state of mind whenever they open their mouths to sing. It's when they put the mikes down that Duets runs into problems.

Screenwriter John Byrum introduces his characters effectively in a series of wry vignettes. Todd, the travelling salesman on the verge of a breakdown, stumbles into a meeting room and is half way through his sales pitch before realising he's in the wrong hotel in the wrong town in the wrong state. Cab-driver Billy is summoned to drive a fare home from the police cells, only to discover it's his old teacher. Washed-up hustler Ricky, in Las Vegas to pay his last respects to his dead ex, gets chatting to a spaced-out showgirl at the funeral parlour before realising she's his long-lost daughter Liv. Thereafter the film settles down into a loose road-movie format, tracking its three mismatched duos from bar to bar across the Midwest. (Writer-director of the 1979 Jack Kerouac/Neal Cassady biopic Heart Beat, Byrum clearly knows his genre.)

Unfortunately, as with so many of the current crop of multi-strand movies (including the top-of-the-range Magnolia), you can't help wishing the writer had concentrated on the most interesting story of the bunch - in this case Todd's odd-couple friendship with fugitive hitchhiker Reggie. While the Todd/
Reggie strand provides the film's dramatic and comic highlights, it also seems underdeveloped. A fugitive killer who decides to play guardian angel to a complete stranger (and turns out to sing like a dream), Reggie is a barely credible creation, despite André Braugher's charismatic performance. As if aware of the flaws here, director Bruce Paltrow cuts away at the two crucial moments when Reggie is about to shoot someone - presumably it's easier for the audience to love a killer if we don't actually see him killing. A bolder film-maker would have shown the murders full on and found a way to embrace the contradiction in Reggie's character.

Paltrow is an experienced television director, best known for his work on hospital soap St. Elsewhere; Duets, however, is his first feature film in 18 years, following his long-forgotten debut A Little Sex. One can only assume that his daughter Gwyneth's willingness to appear in a comparatively minor role helped get the project greenlit. Paltrow senior succeeds in extracting solid performances (and decent singing) from an interesting cast, not least Huey Lewis, who brings a craggy, worldly authority to Ricky, and the pop-eyed Paul Giamatti as Todd, finally getting a juicy lead after a string of nerdy supporting roles. But a younger, hipper director might have given this the edge it sorely lacks.


Bruce Paltrow
Kevin Jones
Bruce Paltrow
John Byrum
John Byrum
Director of Photography
Paul Sarossy
Jerry Greenberg
Production Designer
Sharon Seymour
David Newman
©Buena Vista Pictures Distribution
Production Companies
Hollywood Pictures presents in association with Seven Arts Pictures and Beacon Pictures a Kevin Jones production
Executive Producers
Lee R. Mayes
Neil Canton
Tony Ludwig
Alan Riche
Associate Producer
Katherine E. Beyda
Production Supervisor
Las Vegas Crew:
Laura 'LT' Tateishi
Production Co-ordinators
Lisa Ragosin
Andrea Boorman
Las Vegas Crew:
Lesley Silvey
Unit Production Manager
Katherine E. Beyda
Location Managers
Janice Frome
Las Vegas Crew:
Jeff Crandell
2nd Unit Director
Jack Gill
Assistant Directors
Jim Brebner
Kevin G. Fair
Darren Robson
Las Vegas Crew:
David Fudge
Script Supervisor
Christine Wilson
Francine Maisler
Kathleen Driscoll-Mohler
Stuart Aikens
LA Associates:
Kathryn Eisenstein
Jon Strotheide
Las Vegas Crew:
Ray Favero
Camera Operators
Mark Willis
Las Vegas Crew:
John Sosenko
Steadicam Operators
Nathaniel Massey
Jim van Dijk
Las Vegas Crew:
Dan Kneece
Special Effects
Darren Marcoux
Las Vegas Crew:
Skip Burrows
Graphic Designer
Brentan Harron
Karaoke Lyric Designer
Scott Steyns
Karaoke Computer Playback
Scott Bourgeois
Art Director
William Heslup
Set Designer
Bill McMahon
Set Decorators
Lesley Beale
Las Vegas Crew:
Denise Pizzini
Alex Kameniczky
Scenic Artist
Beatrix Schalk
Costume Designer
Mary Claire Hannan
Costume Supervisor
Las Vegas Crew:
Lola Chambers
Key Make-up Artists
Tina Earnshaw
Jo Ann Fowler
Key Hairstylists
Kay Georgiou
Ian Ballard
Title Design
Nina Saxon/New Wave Entertainment
Optical House
Cinema Research
Alexander Janko
Daniel Hamuy
Music Supervisors
Richard Rudolph
Maya Rudolph
Music Editors
Carl Kaller
Stephanie Lowry
Production Music Recordist
Michael Colomby
Music Playback
Rob Graham
Scoring Mixer
John Kurlander
Scoring Consultant
Krys Newman
"At This Moment" - Lochlyn Munro; "Honky Tonk Mood" - Marty Lewis; "Feeling Alright", "Lonely Teardrops" - Huey Lewis; "I Can't Make You Love Me", "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" - Larry Klein; "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" - Maya Rudolph; "Texas", - Edgar Winter; "Hello, It's Me" - Paul Giamatti; "What I Like about You" - Tony Marr; "All in Good Time" - Danny Donnelly; "Mexican Radio" - Wall of Voodoo; "Keep on Rockin'" - Edgar Winter and Shane August featuring The End; "Islands in the Stream" - Wyley Vlahovic and Barbara Elliot; "Try a Little Tenderness" - Paul Giamatti and Arnold McCuller; "Rock and Roll Part 2" - Gary Glitter; "Bette Davis Eyes" - Gwyneth Paltrow; "The Tide Is High" - Candus Churchill; "What Have You Done for Me Lately" - Dan Joffre; "It's Raining Men" - Erin Wright, Nicole Parker-Smith, Marlaina Andre; "Delilah" - 'Karaoke Karl' Detken; "Strangers in the Night" - Michael Bublé; "Blue Moon" - Larry and Anita Dutton; "Cruisin'" - Gwyneth Paltrow and Huey Lewis; "Copacabana" - John Pinette; "Free Bird" - Arnold McCuller; "Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)" - Kenneth 'Babyface' Edmonds; "Alley Cat"
Scoring Sound Designer
Marty Frasu
Sound Mixers
Eric Batut
Las Vegas Crew:
Geoffrey L. Patterson
Re-recording Mixers
Elliot Tyson
Tom Dahl
Steve Kohler
Supervising Sound Editors
Donald J. Malouf
Todd Toon
Sound Editors
Adam Kopald
Piero Mura
Dialogue Editor
John Kwiatkowski
Supervising Editor:
Jim Brookshire
Linda Folk
Michele Perrone
Stunt Co-ordinators
Ernie Jackson
Las Vegas Crew:
Jack Gill
Maria Bello
Suzi Loomis
André Braugher
Reggie Kane
Paul Giamatti
Todd Woods
Huey Lewis
Ricky Dean
Gwyneth Paltrow
Scott Speedman
Billy Hannon
Marian Seldes
Harriet Gahagan
Kiersten Warren
Candy Woods
Angie Phillips
Angie Dickinson
Lochlyn Munro
Ronny Jackson
Carol Alexander
Beth the hostess
Michael Rogers
Tulsa bartender
Amanda Kravat
Ian Robison
Roger Haskett
John Payne
sales guys
Tom Bougers
desk sergeant
Steve Oatway
Ralph Beckerman
Erika von Tagen
Laura Murdoch
dead showgirl
Roman Danylo
Albuquerque desk clerk
Keegan Tracy
Ann Warn Pegg
Ron Small
old homeless man
Tony Marr
Japanese businessman
Brian Jensen
Cincinnati bartender
Tom Heaton
Andrew Johnston
shop manager
Wyley Vlahovic
desert joint man
Beverly Elliott
desert joint woman
Diane Brown
desert joint hostess
Warren Takeuchi
Texas trooper 1
Aaron Pearl
J.B Bivens
Candus Churchill
karaoke woman
Brent Butt
Kansas motel clerk
David Neale
desk manager
Mike 'Mitch' Mitchell
K.C. gas station attendant
Iris Quinn
K.C. hostess
Brenda Crichlow
Omaha clerk
Maya Rudolph
Omaha karaoke hostess
Marlaina Andre
Michael Bublé
'Karaoke Karl' Detken
Dan Joffre
Nicole Parker-Smith
Erin Wright
finale singers
Anita Dutton
Tonia Kasper
Larry Dutton
Hobie Kasper
Gary Hetherington
Omaha police captain
John Pinette
Susan Campbell
airline representative
Icon Film Distribution
10,062 feet
111 minutes 48 seconds
Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS
In Colour
Prints by
2.35:1 [Super 35]
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011