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Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday Matinee: Dominick and Eugene

How many of you reading this blog entry have a twin brother or sister? Or, how many of you have wanted a twin brother or sister? Maybe you have family members that are twins, or maybe you went to school with a set of twins.

I have to say that I always thought that it would have been cool to have a twin, at least in some cases. You'd have someone who looked just like you (well, unless you were fraternal twins, or twins of the opposite gender like the Walsh twins from Beverly Hills 90210), and you'd always have someone your own age close by. You would get to experience things both apart or together. If you were lucky enough to be identical twins, imagine the fun that you could have switching places with each other.

There are some downsides that I would imagine that would be present in being a twin. You'd never get your own birthday all likelihood, you would have to share with your twin. In fact, I would imagine that in a lot of cases, twins would have to share a lot of things, which could end up being a good thing or a bad thing.

Still, with approximately 32 out of every 1,000 births being twins, it's a fair bet to say that we've encountered at least one set of twins in our lives. In elementary school, there was a set of twin girls in the grade above me, and I knew a couple of sets of twins during my college years. In the media, there are lots of other famous twins that one might have seen. These include Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Tia and Tamera Mowry, Cole and Dylan Sprouse, and Robin and Maurice Gibb.

This blog entry features a set of twins that are in a movie. Twins that while they are completely different in all aspects of life still hold a very special bond. A bond that strengthens over time, and a bond that will never break.

The movie Dominick and Eugene was released on December 23, 1988. The film starred Tom Hulce as Dominick and Ray Liotta as Eugene. I can remember seeing this movie for the very first time on TVOntario's Saturday Night At The Movies, and the movie was so good, and so powerful that it became the inspiration behind this particular piece.

Dominick and Eugene are twin brothers who live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They are the same age, they have the same last name, and they both live in the same apartment. And that is where the similarities between these twins seemingly end.

Eugene is on the fast track to a rich, fulfilling life. He's studying to become a doctor, and he is sailing through medical school. There is one problem though. In order to continue his education so that he can become a full-fledged doctor, he will have to leave Pittsburgh to complete his studies. The reason why this is a problem is because he will have to leave Dominick behind, and he's not entirely sure that he's able to take care of himself.

This is where we see the main difference between Dominick and Eugene. Something happened to Dominick in his younger years, and as a result of this, Dominick's development has been much different than Eugene's. Whereas Eugene has gotten through life without much difficulty, Dominick's mind seems to be more childlike in nature. He sees things the same way as that of a young boy, and has difficulty grasping adult concepts. Regardless of this, Dominick had managed to secure himself a job working as a garbage collector. His co-worker Larry (Todd Graff) becomes a really good friend to Dominick, although he sometimes plants wild thoughts into Dominick's head, which sometimes leads to trouble later on.

The relationship between Dominick and Eugene is well-established within the first 30 minutes of the movie. Dominick's job helps him earn the money needed for Eugene to complete his educational needs, while in turn, Eugene takes care of Dominick's basic needs. Still, with Eugene being forced to leave Pittsburgh to secure the future that he ultimately wants for himself, he isn't sure of what will happen to Dominick.

So this becomes our major conflict in the film. How can Eugene have peace of mind knowing that he'll be leaving behind the brother that he has looked after practically their whole lives?

This major conflict is eventually resolved one way or another, but in order to get to that point, we have to watch the minor conflicts get ironed out first. As it so happens in this movie, all of the minor conflicts end up merging together into one neat and tidy conclusion at the end, which basically sets the stage for the resolution of the major conflict...but I'll get to that a little later.

We have minor conflict number one. Eugene developing feelings for a nurse who works at the same hospital that he does. Jennifer (played by Jamie Lee Curtis), and Eugene start hanging out more as Eugene helps her study for exams. Although what happens between Eugene and Jennifer is innocent, Eugene finds himself falling for the young nurse. Unfortunately for Eugene, Dominick's friend Larry is telling him that Eugene and Jennifer are sleeping together, which makes Dominick upset. After a night out with Larry, Dominick drunkenly confronts Eugene and Jennifer, and accuses Eugene of sleeping with her. The accusation causes Eugene to violently shove Dominick, and he angrily tells Dominick to go to bed. Jennifer is insulted at first, but gradually begins to resume her friendship with Eugene, as well as starting up a friendship with Dominick as well.

Then we have minor conflict number two. This one involves Dominick's route as a garbage collector. Though, it didn't exactly start there.

On the night of Dominick and Eugene's birthday, Dominick is looking forward to celebrating with his brother, but unfortunately Eugene is held up at the hospital and cannot make it home in time. Dominick is very disappointed, but Larry promises to take him to the Wrestlemania event that he and Eugene had originally planned to see. Of course, Larry was never known for being one to stick to the plan, and instead of seeing the Wrestlemania event, they end up at the home of Mrs. Vincent, who Larry occasionally has intimate relations with. While Larry and Mrs. Vincent have fun inside, Dominick decides to wait outside until Larry is finished. This turns out to be a decision that pushes the plot forward, for Dominick meets a new friend. It turns out to be a young boy named Mikey, whose family lives next door to Mrs. Vincent. Mikey ends up being a lot like Dominick in that they both think the same, they both love comic books, and they both have similar interests.

Dominick notices that Mikey has bruises over his face, and he asks Mikey where he got them from. Mikey lies and says that he just fell, and that's how he ended up getting bruised. In reality, Mikey is the victim of child abuse caused by a parent, as Mikey's father frequently abuses him. But because Dominick sometimes has difficulty distinguishing fact from fiction, he believes Mikey when Mikey tells him that he fell.

So we have our two minor conflicts here, and while one of them has more or less a happy ending (the one featuring Eugene and Jennifer), the one involving Mikey ends up to be not so happy. In fact, it's probably one of two defining moments in the whole movie.

Setting the stage up for this moment is when Dominick, Eugene, Jennifer, and a neighbour go on a picnic and Dominick brings his dog along with them. When the dog is hit by a car during the picnic, it greatly disturbs Dominick. Why this is the case, we aren't made clear least not yet.

A few days after this, Dominick is working, and he is at Mikey's house throwing the garbage from outside into the truck when he happens to come across a rather disturbing sight. Through one of the front windows of Mikey's house, Dominick sees Mikey being beat up by his father, and is absolutely horrified when Mikey's father throws him down a flight of stairs, knocking him unconscious. As Mikey's father runs down the stairs to call 911, Dominick is frozen in terror and fear. When Larry tries to ask Dominick what the matter is, Dominick is too shaken up to say a word, especially after Mikey's father spies Dominick staring at him through the window. When Mikey's father is questioned over what happened, he lies, saying that Mikey fell accidentally.

But Dominick knew the truth. And Mikey's father knew it.

Despite the quick reaction time from the 911 call, Mikey ends up dying from the injuries sustained by the fall down the stairs. Dominick, still inconsolable from what he witnessed, goes to the hospital to find out what happened, but he is intercepted by Mikey's father, who drags him into a closet. He cruelly tells Dominick that Mikey is dead, and threatens to kill him if he ever tells anyone about what really happened to Mikey.

This prompts Dominick to flee the hospital in fear. However, in a moment of clarity for Dominick, he realizes that it is too late for him to save Mikey. It is however not too late for him to save Joey (Mikey's younger brother) from his father's rage. Stealing a gun that Larry kept on him for killing junkyard rats, he sneaks into the the home of Mikey's parents and takes Joey by gunpoint, believing that he is protecting Joey from getting abused like Mikey.

This leads to Eugene and Jennifer racing to get to Dominick to talk him into returning Joey before Mikey's father ends up reaching him.

I will not reveal the conclusion to this storyline, because as you know, I never spoil endings to movies featured on the Monday Matinee. After all, these films are sometimes personal recommendations from me for you to see. And I do recommend this film because it really is one of those underrated movies that has a great plot and great acting.

I will say this though. The ending reveals why Dominick is so affected by violence...and it also reveals how Dominick ended up the way that he did, and why Eugene felt tremendous guilt by it all.

In fact, here's a confession for all of you. It takes a great deal for me to become so emotionally involved in a movie that I end up shedding tears at the end. And this movie's ending had me literally reaching for a box of Kleenex. It's filled with so much emotion that you can't help but feel moved by this film.

A film about two twin brothers who sacrificed a lot in their own lives to help the other one live.

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