Dominick and Eugene premiered in 1988 and features Tom Hulce as Dominick and a relatively new actor back then Ray Liotta as his twin brother, Eugene. Dominick is mentally impaired from a previous head injury while Eugene is in training to become a physician. We learn that their mother is dead, and their father “went away.” Dominick supports the two of them by collecting garage in the South Side Slopes. Conflict arises when Eugene earns a bid to finish his training at Stanford Medical School.
Hulce had previously won acclaim and garnered both an Academy Award and Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor for his portrayal in 1984 of Mozart in the Academy Award winning film Amadeus. Hulce portrays Dominick as childlike and gullible, and he is repeatedly bullied by his coworker and residents on his garbage route. Eugene must often intervene to keep Dominick from being harmed or from harming himself. Since Dominick lacks even the capacity to remember to do simple task such as walking their dog, Eugene is faced with a dilemma: He must either give up his dream of attending Stanford to stay in Pittsburgh and watch over Dominick, or uproot his brother from the home and job he loves and move him to California, something that would be traumatic for his brother. Compounding the situation is a budding romance between Eugene and fellow med student Jennifer played by Jamie Lee Curtis.
While collecting garbage, Dominick witnesses a shocking crime. He is so traumatized by the event that he lashes out, necessitating the calling out of the city’s SWAT team. As Eugene tries to calm his brother, Dominick remembers something from the brothers’ past that explains Dominick’s head injury and why Eugene has such a volatile temper.
The two main characters are appealing, but at times, the supporting characters seem clichéd. They are the typical one-dimensional, blue-collar “yinzers” we’ve seen in other films like The Deer Hunter and Flashdance. Not everyone in Pittsburgh spends all their free time slumming in dive bars and downing Boilermakers. It would have been refreshing to give the movie more well-drawn supporting characters.
The movie opens with a sweeping shot of the Golden Triangle, but if you are looking for a film that showcases the beauty of Pittsburgh, this is not the movie. Most of the action takes place in the grittier areas of the city, like alleys, back streets, pool halls, and landfills.
The plot starts out a bit slow but picks up mid-way through and comes to a fast and surprising conclusion. Although the dialogue seems a bit sappy, the theme of devotion, self-sacrifice, and brotherly love redeems the movie and makes for a memorable film.
Look for a cameo by Vincent Chianese owner of legendary Vincent’s Pizza Park in the pizza parlor scene. And for those trivia buffs, the hospital scenes were shot at Montefiore Hospital.