Today’s film is the 2016 Comedy Drama The Duke: Based on the memoir ‘I am the Duke’ by J.P Duke. directed by Max Barbakow and written by Derek J. Pastuszek and Andy Siara. It stars LaMonica Garrett, Chrystall Friedemann, Catherine Urbanek and Jeff Marlow.
The Duke tells the story of J.P Duke (LaMonica Garrett) a ex-NFL star who struggles to fit in with day to day life after his many concussions force him to retire. While J.P tries to get into contact with his old agent Wayne Tuttle (Jeff Marlow) about a deal he has in the works about moving to Miami and joining their team his very pregnant wife Aubrey hosts a Super Bowl party for his friends and neighbors. This take a darker turn as the haze of his concussion addled mind clears briefly and he is found speaking to two detectives at the hospital where his hand is being bandaged. As they inquire about what happened at the beach side party J.P had just left The Duke goes on a very strange tale about the day leading up to that point and that not everything is as it seems.
When I first seen that the film was dubbed a “Sports Comedy drama” I groaned as what came to mind was movies such as The Water Boy with their over the top acting and very cheesy story, I couldn’t have been more wrong. While billed a comedy (And make no mistake there are some funny moments) I found this film was way more serious than advertised. The concept of the film shows how this star athlete has his life ruined by his many serious injuries and how it can effect an otherwise kind and sane person. I personally found it a great commentary on the life these men lead and the after effects of years of physical abuse they put themselves through for our entertainment. This is due to the excellent story written by the writing team that never once tries to go overboard with the humor nor make light of the seriousness of the injuries J.P has suffered all the while making it have some laugh out loud moments to break up the deeply thought provoking drama. This is pulled off greatly due to the brilliant acting done by the entire cast.
LaMonica Garrett’s performance as J.P Duke is simply wonderful to behold. He comes across as brash, impulsive and charming just as most professional Football players try to be in real life. He also brings a depth to the character that will pull on the heart strings of even the most cynical viewer. All throughout the film you keep getting the sense that J.P is damaged and struggling with reality by the many pauses he takes while being talked to and his mind wanders off to his past games. Garrett’s performance really brings the character to life and makes the film shine. The other truly wonderful performance is by Catherine Urbanek in her character of Aubrey. She comes across as worried and supportive as J.P slowly seems to be losing touch with reality while still managing to keep herself strong willed and assertive. This makes her more than just a background character and brings such passion and chemistry to the part you’d think they were actually married. Now while I know this is what you should expect from an actor you’d be surprised how often that two characters fail to click together. The two powerful performances along with the rest of the highly talented cast and extras made this film a great pleasure to watch.
The technical work on The Duke: Based on the Memoir ‘I am the Duke’ by J.P Duke is absolutely top notch. The cinematography is simply beautiful to behold with it crystal clear picture quality and professionally handled camera work. Each scene is shot in such a way that it helps deliver a deeper impact to the story, weather this is a close up on the face of J.P as if he was giving an interview or the sweeping shots of his running throughout the city it is always clear, steady and impactful. Even in the night scenes that in most films are to dark to see this movie handles perfectly. This is impressive when you learn that the production company Off-White Bronco first credit was this film and it simply hits it out of the park.
Like the visual work of the film the audio work is also stellar. The voices of the characters come through loud and clear and there is no background static or artifacts that are all to common in independent features. Each choice of music for the scenes are thematically appropriate ranging from a good time feeling jaunty tune to the more serious dramatic sounds that simply bring each scene to life. The combined effort of the audio, visual and acting makes this film truly one of the best of any recent film I have watched.
While I personally found the genre category misleading The Duke: Based on the memoir ‘I am the Duke’ by J.P Duke is a wonderfully well crafted film that delivers a emotional story to it’s viewers that still manages to be funny in all the right places and can be enjoyed by fans of practically any genre. If you are a sports fan or thinking about becoming a professional football player let this movie serve as a warning to the harsh realities of that seemingly glamorous life. If you are an aspiring filmmaker make sure you add this film to your watch list as a what to do guide.
With it’s star studded cast bringing powerful performances and the absolutely beautiful production quality of the film at twenty three minutes you simply can’t go wrong watching this film.