Bless all brothers near and far,
The sensitive and callous ones,
The playmates prone to jealousy
Yet somehow fond of family,
The boys who tease and rib and spar
Yet love their parents’ other sons.
Maybe brothers don’t realize
The privilege that I never had,
A friend you maybe did not want,
A buddy quicker to confront,
Yet one whose love your name implies,
Who shares more than a mom and dad.
MPAA rating: PG-13
I recently found a local movie channel that shows more obscure films, and checking out one such sleeper just for the heck of it, I discovered this underrated drama. Dominick and Eugene seems like a prime award magnet. It features a nuanced fraternal relationship, a superb performance from an Oscar nominee (Tom Hulce), strong supporting roles for Ray Liotta and Jamie Lee Curtis, and a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Yet I’d never heard of it, and the most it received in 1988 was a Golden Globe nom for Hulce before fading away into the sea of forgotten ‘80s movies. Maybe its title was too generic, but this is a shame.
The titular duo are twins living together in Pittsburgh. Liotta is Eugene, a doctor-to-be who tries to start a relationship with a colleague (Curtis) and further his career while dealing with his mentally challenged brother. Hulce as Dominick is the star here. He is child-like, earnest, and hopelessly gullible, often falling for the tricks or suggestions of his coworker Larry and the local hoodlums, and when an idea gets in his head, he doesn’t let it go easily. Despite his disability, though, Nicky is the breadwinner, and his job as a garbage man serves to fund his brother’s education. Eugene is both protective of and frustrated by his brother, for reasons not clear at first, and life, love, and tragedy get in the way of their close relationship.
Dominick and Eugene could have drawn comparisons to the other drama about brotherly bonds and mental illness from that same year Rain Man, which did earn Best Picture and Best Actor Oscars and had far more advertising and better known stars. Hulce can’t quite compare with Dustin Hoffman’s role there (few can), but his fragile and earnest performance surely deserved more attention. One scene in particular stood out to me, as the camera centers on Hulce’s first-person view and reaction to a shocking act and a personal realization. The relationship between the two brothers is both strained yet unbreakable and more believable than in Rain Man, helping Dominick and Eugene to succeed as a subtle and touching affirmation of family ties.
Best line: (Dominick, who is a Christian but discouraged, looking at a crucifix) “If I was God, I wouldn’t let that happen to my boy.”
Rank: List-Worthy (tied with Rain Man)
© 2016 S. G. Liput
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