Owning Mahowny

Owning Mahowny
Film review by: Witney Seibold

Owning Mahowny
When a film about addiction is made, it usually involves substances. Drugs, alcohol and the like. There are many, many fine films to deal with these subjects – “The Days of Wine and Roses” is exceptional, “Permanent Midnight” puts pathos square in the center of heroin addiction – but I have to admit that I have a particular draw toward the more compulsive addiction stories. The lack of physical dependence involved with drugs gives the addict one less “out.” Sex addiction, compulsive eating, dangerous stunts, and gambling. True human weakness comes to the surface.
“Owning Mahowny,” the new film from Richard Kwietniowski tells the true story of Dan Mahowny (Philip Seymour Hoffman, once again a spectacular schlump) who in the early 1980s in Canada, embezzled and defrauded his S&L for over $10 million for the simple need to feed his gambling addiction. The film depicts him just as it should: as an addict. He is not a hopeful enthusiastic man who counts how much money he’s made or lost over the miscalculated bets, but as a man who needs money simply so he can lose it. The thrill is in placing the bet, not in winning it. The film follows Mahowny as his fraud crimes become less and less easy to hide, and as his girlfriend Belinda (Minnie Driver) struggles to understand. John Hurt plays the casino owner who loves Mahowny’s purity. No free drinks. No free rooms or hookers. Mahowny’s there to gamble. Maury Chaykin wonderfully plays a slimy bookie confused by red tape.
While the film may go on a little too long on the same path, and may not explore the supporting characters quite enough, the acting is wonderful, and the treatment of the compulsive state of mind, dead on. Mahowny does not gamble for fun, he gambles to get high. He wins for the sole purpose of losing again. Director Kwietniowski also made the underappreciated “Love and Death on Long Island,” a film about an older intellectual’s obsession with a young pop icon. He has a knack for the nature of obsession. Quiet, compulsive, and, for the most part, hurtful.


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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. How wonderful that you do a film-blog, and I do a Music-blog 🙂

    This movie does sound interesting. I love John Hurt. I imagine it’s likely to be a little on the depressing side, no? Still, I’ve put it down for rental when it comes around.

    Hope you’re well.

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