any good movies lately?
and recommend it.
It's the 1980s and
in Toronto, a mild-mannered, schlubby young bank manager named Dan
Mahowny plugs away at his job at one of the country's major banks. His
boss absolutely loves him, and keeps dumping higher and higher-profile
clients upon Dan's shoulders. Dan never complains, quietly taking on all
his assignments and getting the job done. His girlfriend Belinda, with
whom he's just moved in, thinks Dan works too hard, but she loves him
and thinks he's got a good heart, and so she forgives him for not being
there for her quite as much as she'd like. She even defends him when
he's late coming home because he's been gambling at the tracks, or
ignores the other guests at a dinner party because he's so focused on
watching some big game for which he's got some money riding. Belinda's a
teller at the same branch where Dan works, and she's seen how hard he
works; she figures he's earned the right to spend his money and relax a
little in whatever way he sees fit. But what Belinda and Dan's employers
don't know is that Dan has a secret life. His gambling addiction goes way
beyond occasional forays to the track and friendly wagers on major
sporting events. In an attempt to pay off his mounting debts to the
local bookie, Dan's started flying down to Atlantic City on weekends --
playing for seriously high stakes using money embezzled through work.
The casino down in Atlantic City loves Dan, plying him with luxury
rooms, private transport, a personal assistant and his favorite foods.
But for Dan it's all about the thrill of the gamble, as he takes bigger
and bigger risks and wonders if this time, will it be the big pay off?
Or will he finally get caught?
Owning Mahowny is one of those movies that you don't expect to be
nearly as enjoyable a watch as it is. The real-life tale of Dan Mahowny
is moderately interesting, sure -- it's always kind of intriguing when a
seemingly ordinary schmo manages to pull a fast one on a big moneymaking
corporation -- but it catches your attention in a quickie newspaper
blurb sort of way; there's something about the story that seems
custom-tailored for one of those made-for-TV based-on-a-true-story
Sunday night movies. But Owning Mahowny, it turns out, is just a
really well made movie. The movie starts off almost shyly, like the main
character himself, quietly introducing us to how Mahowny looks to the
rest of the world. As things unfold and we get increasingly drawn into
Mahowny's secret life and the high stakes casino world, the pacing picks
up slightly. The movie makes the cool decision to show us both Mahowny's
side of things and that of the casino manager as well; it's a sad but
fascinating look at how addictive the gambling high can get on both
sides of the fence, with the house riding as much on their customers'
losses as the customers do on the thrill of their victories. Mostly,
though, it's the performances that really make Owning Mahowny
worth watching. The supporting cast is very good, especially John Hurt
as casino manager Victor Foss. But it's Philip Seymour Hoffman's
wonderfully subtle, focused, exquisitely detailed performance as Dan
Mahowny that really draws you into Mahowny's tunnel-vision world, and
makes you kind of believe in him even as he digs himself ever deeper
into a financial and legal abyss. It's not the nicest feeling in the
world, getting into the head of a serious gambling addict, and you know
from the get-go that things are only going to end in disaster, but like
the gambler himself, you find you can't quite tear yourself away. —reviewed
by Yee-Fan Sun
lounge . nourish
. host .
. home .