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LoneTomato

Owning Mahoney

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If this movie plays in your area, sprint (don't run) to see it. It's an amazing portrait of gambling addiction and the unconditional love that sometimes enables it. The always amazing Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Dan Mahowny, a bank manager who misuses his position to fuel his balooning gambling problem - which he defends by calling it a "financial situation." Watching him sink deeper and deeper into his addiction while his "situation" snowballs into an inevitable avelanche is a guilty pleasure akin to watching two skilled Jenga players build and simultaneously undermine their growing structure.

What makes Dan even more fascinating is that he is a pure gambler. He doesn't bring in huge bankrolls for the prestige or the high-roller suite. He does it because he just wants to gamble. When the sleazy Atlantic City casino owner learns that Dan is playing large amounts of money, he offers him free bufets and seats at fine restaurants. Dan asks for "ribs, no sauce, and a coke." This cash cow is a thoroughbred.

This casino owner only sees one thing in Dan, money, but there's a bookie through whom Dan places sports bets. This character is interesting for the fact that he makes some effort to care for Mahowny. There are a couple of times where he tries to cut him off but Dan finds a way to get him to turn it on again. At one point, Dan isn't even concerned with individual teams. He tells his bookie to give him all the home teams in one division and all the visiting teams in another. The bookie feels insulted by this, saying that he would feel better about taking his money if he would at least try.

Minnie Driver plays his girlfriend who works with him at the bank. She is an enabler to be sure but she is also a woman who loves his man. At the end of the movie, a woman behind me muttered, "what a stupid woman," while the friend I saw the movie with said, "what a portrait of unconditional love." She's both, but while she may not have done enough to stop his habbit, his love for her also plays a part in his healing. The movie opens with a close up of Niagra Falls - a punishing torrent of water. The movie ends with Dan and Belinda (Driver) watching the Falls from a lookout point. They're out of obsession's current but they're only a guard rail away from it.

Sprint, don't run.

God bless,

randall

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LoneTomato wrote:

: If this movie plays in your area, sprint (don't run) to see it.

Agreed! I saw this film last night and really, really liked it -- I would say it's a shoo-in for my end-of-the-year top-ten list.

I really appreciated the subtlety, the low-key-ness of the film. And it was fascinating to see how the greediness of the banks was partly responsible for the fact that Mahowny went as far as he did in defrauding them and thus feeding his own gambling addiction. (That conversation in the elevator was very revealing, in particular.)

I loved how Philip Seymour Hoffman was able to make this character very sympathetic, in the sense that you could identify with him and with the fact that he was in this really awkward position, while at the same time NEVER letting you forget that what the character was doing was wrong and, quite frankly, pathetic. Consider the scene where he meets the cook in the stairwell, and he laughs when he realizes what the cook is eating; or the scenes where people confront him about his addiction, even indirectly, and he suddenly loses his shy demeanour and becomes very, well, aggressive and sharp with them -- those are good examples of how very well-rounded Hoffman's performance is.

I also liked some of the smaller touches, like when the cop grabs the donut and says "honey-dipped" and his colleague mutters "honey-glazed" -- it definitely had the feel of dull, nit-picky office banter to me. And the way John Hurt's face goes from irritation (because Hoffman went to another casino instead of the one that Hurt runs) to glee (because Hoffman is beginning to BEAT that other casino) was quite funny, too, again because of the way it felt, to me at least, like authentic professional rivalry.

: This casino owner only sees one thing in Dan, money, but there's a

: bookie through whom Dan places sports bets. This character is

: interesting for the fact that he makes some effort to care for Mahowny.

: There are a couple of times where he tries to cut him off but Dan finds a

: way to get him to turn it on again. At one point, Dan isn't even concerned

: with individual teams. He tells his bookie to give him all the home teams

: in one division and all the visiting teams in another. The bookie feels

: insulted by this, saying that he would feel better about taking his money

: if he would at least try.

Yes, a great character! (Played by the always-interesting Maury Chaykin.)

SPOILER

: Minnie Driver plays his girlfriend who works with him at the bank. She is

: an enabler to be sure but she is also a woman who loves his man.

Man, I sighed sadly when Mahowny was finally arrested and the cop took off the jacket she had given him ...

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