Favorite Fictional Characters, #265: Doug Ireland
For Love or Money is a little-known, formulaic rom-com vehicle for Michael J. Fox. Released in 1993, it resides in a career trough between his Hall of Fame late-80s run and his too-brief 1990s resurgence with Spin City. And yet I've always been partial to his performance in this film, and enjoyed the character of Doug Ireland. Doug's a concierge at the swanky Bradbury hotel in Manhattan, the kind of connected guy who can get the guests whatever they need - a dinner reservations, tickets for the opera or the Yankees - an operator among the underground network of concierges who keep New York's tourists happily handing over healthy gratuities. Doug doesn't accept up-front tips. No. He advises patrons to experience his expert handling first, and then, if he's worth it, to give a tip so big it hurts.
Doug's a fantastic concierge, but his ambitions don't end there. He assiduously saves his money, scrimping on his own wants (he's on a first name basis with his Chinese delivery guy), building up a nest egg to fund his dream of building and owning his own grand hotel. He's got an option on some Roosevelt Island property, he's got the plans drawn up, but he's running out of time. He needs a deep-pocketed partner to get the project started. Enter sleek billionaire Christian Hanover, whom Doug cultivates as his angel investor. Hanover is interested, and among the tasks Doug performs for his white whale is to look after his mistress, perfume saleswoman Andy Hart (delectable Gabrielle Anwar of Scent of a Woman notoriety). Of course Doug and Andy (who is much younger than Hanover) hit it off, but both are chasing other dreams - Andy thinks Christian will leave his wife for her (never gonna happen) and Doug thinks Christian will fund his hotel (actually, he's going to steal the property and build it himself). The usual hijinks ensue, with everyone practicing deception on each other (and themselves). Of course it all works out in the end - a hotel guest that Doug thought was just another fanny-packed out-of-towner turns out to be an even bigger fish than Hanover, and after he gets a look at the hotel proposal, he invests in Doug's dreams.
Doug is infused with Fox's final big-screen salvo of energetic physical comedy and boyish charisma (his Parkinson's diagnosis was still new and not yet public). I love the gleeful optimism of this movie and character, the unbruised belief in self and goal. Doug's work ethic is second to none, and he gets things done (he's a genie in a suit - just make a wish). I admire his willingness to commit to the work he's doing, to take care of his people, to never stop driving toward what he wants, and his limitless capacity to deliver on his promises. Forced to choose between love and money, Doug Ireland somehow manages to score both.