First Review of Duplicity

Tony Gilroy made the leap from A-list writer to A-list writer-director with 2007’s MICHAEL CLAYTON. I wasn’t a fan, but there’s no doubt that the man can write a hell of a monologue (aside from Tom Wilkinson’s ravings in MC, he’s also responsible for Al Pacino’s grandstanding at the end of the ridiculously entertaining DEVIL’S ADVOCATE). You’ve got to respect that.

It sounds like his latest, DUPLICITY, is mostly for fun, which is refreshing. I’d hate to lose an entertainer like Gilroy (who did such bang-up work on the BOURNE movies) to the prestige pic racket. This one’s not due for release until March 2009, so there’s plenty of time for tightening up and, if need be, reshoots. Let’s see what “welbrick” thought…

haven’t seen anything up yet about the screening of ‘duplicity’ last night, so i thought i’d throw my thoughts @ y’all.

i didn’t really get ‘michael clayton’. it’s proficiently executed w/ a well drawn main character and a worthy story line, but dramatically, it felt inert to me. that cross-cutting @ the end w/ clooney’s car driving through the country side w/ a bomb waiting to go off – classic suspense stuff. except there was no suspense in the last act of ‘michael clayton’ cus we watched the bomb go off 15 minutes into the movie, and we all know clooney is out canoodling w/ a bunch of horses when his car explodes.

that movie felt like a cramp, the plotting was a slow drip that offered no relief. gilroy’s new one parses out the info on on an iv, too, but this time he has the good sense to reveal new information with each drop, rather than regurgitating the first act in the climax of the film.

the plot of ‘duplicity’ is pretty simple, but you’d never think that while watching it. the characters communicate via misdirection. conversations that seem to reveal actually conceal, confessions are denials, arguments are flirtation. this is storytelling by way of acronyms.

it’s basically a heist/espionage movie – we could be watching jewel thieves or cia agents scrambling around for the combo to a safe or a missile launch code, but the mcguffin here is a consumer product. the proceedings are allowed a bit more charm when the ingredients of a lotion are being fought over rather than the where abouts of a tortured hostage.

the emotional center of the movie is the clive/julia relationship, which echoes the catty one upmanship of ‘the thomas crown affair’. owen & roberts play corporate spies, so there’s some trust issues to overcome. they fire lies at one another like bullets, trying to pierce each others’ professional facade w/ false outbursts and insulting innuendo. this is the kind of movie where the characters’ illusions are more convincing than the ultimate reality the film settles on.

the plot plays similarly to the ‘the sting’, but smokey betting rooms are now cooperate corridors, and high rise buildings replace racing tracks. ‘duplicity’ isn’t as playful as ‘the sting’, and there’s no obvious villain here; the ceo’s of the 2 rival companies function as the targets of clive & julia’s con job. and since they’re ceo’s, i guess we can assume they have it coming.

wilkinson and giamatti play the bossmen of the competing companies that clive & julia are working for (and against). the former pair are in a handful of scenes (they only appear on screen together in a hilariously inspired slow motion credit sequence) and are basically playing single note characters, but i can listen to these guys’ riffing on one note all day. giamatti spends his screentime chewing his lower lip as well as any scenery that gets in his way, while wilkinson brings a quiet wisdom to his role, which means he’s probably a gullible rube or playing at playing one.

clive owen seems more alive here than in recent outings, more emotive & responsive; he’s fun to watch as he is alternately hurt, pretending to be hurt, &/or pretending to be hurt while really hurting others.

julia roberts bugs me. she always seems to press her lines too hard, as if trying to convince everyone that she really believes them. but i think her style of acting works here, the artificiality of her earnestness, the forced grandeur of her smile. it all feels appropriate in this role. it’s like casting jack black to play an obnoxious fat guy; roberts’ insistence on making her dialog so insistent plays like a calculated decision.

gilroy & dp robert elswitt employ a similar approach; there’s a cold precision to the aesthetic, a cooperate seriousness to the compositions. it seems like there’s more at stake here than there really is – but this lumet-like approach makes the film genuinely engaging. it’s mature entertainment.

as the title suggests, the movie is a mechanism for twists. the characters are all buttoned up in never wrinkle suits, but they get to swagger & boogie as they manipulate one another. it’s fun watching them squirm or pretend to squirm as they take turns one upping each other & the audience’s expectations.

it’s slickly made hollywood bullshit. i dug it.

-welbrick

Source: Aint It Cool News

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