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Owning Mahowny (2003)

  Directed by: Richard Kwietniowski
Written by: Maurice Chauvet, Gary Stephen Ross
Starring: Minnie Driver, Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Hurt
Links: Owning Mahowny on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on DVD, Buy the Book, Buy on Video
Genre: Based on True Story

This movie gets: 7.00 (1 rating) Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

"Room to breathe" - a review by pearly

Owning Mahowny is based on the true story of Brian Molony, whose name was changed to Dan Mahowny for this film, for reasons which are unclear to me. Mahowny is played by the always, always fantastic Philip Seymour Hoffman, so before you even walk in the door you're guaranteed of at least one plus.

Mahowny is an everyman. He works at a bank, and he's trying to save up enough cash to move into a fancy place with his girlfriend, get married, and start a family. The only thing standing in his way is his ever-increasing gambling problem. He goes from staying in the casino a little too long at the beginning of the film, to beginning to embezzle money from his job with which to take trips to a Canadian casino and spend thousands and more in one night.

Mahowny's long-suffering girlfriend Belinda, played by Minnie Driver wearing a stupid-looking blonde wig, and without much acting talent, is none the wiser to begin with, but begins to suspect something is amiss after not too long. And then there's Foss (John Hurt, who plays brilliantly against Hoffman), the owner of the Canadian casino who panders to Mahowny's every whim, whilst simultaneously shaking his head in disbelief and bemusement at some of Mahowny's actions.

The story described here could have been done as go-go-go, but that is not the way that director Richard Kwietniowski chose to position it. There are long sweeping shots of Hoffman just sitting places; placeholders for all the things that must be going on within Mahowny's mind. These constant pauses allow the viewer to ponder on the situation at hand: how can someone be in so deep but not even able to admit it to themselves? This is the crux of addiction.

The direction is effective, yet it takes a certain type of audience to appreciate it, and at times I found my mind wandering too. The story is all the more impressive for the realisation that it's based on actual events, though.

The structure is not perfect, but Hoffman, as always, makes the whole add up to more than the sum of its parts. No help from Driver, who, apart from what I've already said, was putting on an annoying accent. Passable.

pearly gives this movie 7 out of 10.
Review created on Wed 1 Dec 2004

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