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  Crescent Blues Movie Views

In the dark comedy Duplex, novelist Alex (Ben Stiller) and magazine editor Nancy (Drew Barrymore) are the perfect couple living the perfect life in their new dream home. Their future looks bright. Within their newly acquired duplex, Alex can write his novel, and he and Nancy can live happily ever after.

Or so they think.

In movies, too-good-to-be-true homes do not exist. (Nor should they. If they did the movie would be over in about 15 minutes.) Soon after taking the plunge from rent checks to mortgage payments, their world literally crashes to the ground. Their dream-come-true duplex comes with its very own nightmare one flight up.

Enter the darkness in the form of a fragile looking old lady. It seems Mrs. Connelly (Eileen Essel), their rent-controlled tenant, will not be going anywhere willingly. The sweet old lady they initially encounter turns out to be anything but, causing Alex and Nancy's perfect life to unravel.

According to their real estate agent (Harvey Fierstein), sweet old (emphasis on old) Mrs. Connelly's time in this world will soon run out. Too bad for Alex and Nancy that she intends to spend that time touring Hell on Earth with her new landlords. The would-be landlords soon realize that Mrs. Connelly's plan involves outlasting everyone.

Ruining Alex and Nancy's lives apparently keeps her going. Losing their money -- not to mention their minds -- leads Alex and Nancy to imagine how nice the world would be minus a certain tenant. Apparently, losing one's career equals losing one's conscience.

Since Danny DeVito directed this movie, we movie experts know from the get-go that this comedy will eventually turn creepy (just not creepier than the mouth-to-mouth resuscitation Alex gives a choking Mrs. Connelly pre-murder plot). After all, Alex needs peace and quiet to write his novel. Mrs. Connelly refuses to go quietly into that good night. With their careers, and their sanity, jeopardized by the tenant from hell, Alex and Nancy think the unthinkable. Who wouldn't?

Well, lots of people, but for the sake of argument we're supposed to sympathize enough with Alex and Nancy to support their wanting to whack the old lady. Ultimately they decide to send her to the great rent-controlled building in the sky. Do I need to tell you things don't go as planned?

Stiller and Barrymore work well together delivering many amusing moments along the way. Throwing Essel into the mix makes for a bizarre trio. She steals many scenes from the well-known, likable stars (who don't shine nearly as bright as would-be murderers). Both characters and actors meet their match in Irish actress Essel.

Duplex may not be the stuff great movies are made of, but it may make you appreciate your own neighbors more.

Meg Corcoran

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