June 20, 2013
Written by Sally Sanders
Thursday, 02 April 2009 10:07
Each week, the Reel Dad checks the nutritional value of a movie — new or classic — to help parents choose what to watch with their children. This week’s pick is the new film by writer/director Tony Gilroy, Duplicity.
Julia Roberts and Clive Owen have so much natural charm, and contagious chemistry, they could probably make any mere trifle feel like a complete cinema meal. Fortunately, master movie-maker Tony Gilroy gives them more to work with in the delightful romantic thriller, Duplicity. The film offers just the right balance of fun, mischief and romance to give you a great cinema snack.
Told with modest wit and great visual style, Duplicity relies less on intricate plot maneuvers (as Gilroy’s landmark Michael Clayton) than its own sense of fun. Never do we truly believe what we see, that Tom Wilkinson is all that sharp a CEO or that Paul Giamatti is all that crafty a Fortune 500 mastermind. Nor do we totally buy into the romance that Roberts and Owen stop and start with great flourish in lovely places. But we’re not asked to trust the goings on, we just have to sit back and enjoy. And that’s easy.
Roberts and Owen meet and re-meet under mysterious circumstances. Each is a player in the confidence game, at times connected to governments, at times connected to corporations, at times connected to each other. Each tries to outsmart the other, charm the other, deceive the other, all the while working to score a big payoff. Each scheme is staged to outdo the one just before as if the two are trying to constantly change the rules of the game. And a game it is. Don’t look for this film to offer any insight into how big corporations think. But it’s great fun to see the ends to which companies might go for what they think the buying public may want.
In less confident hands, Duplicity could have been a confusing contrivance. But Gilroy is such a sharp scripter, and a creative visual director, that he creates a complete world amidst the familiar sights of midtown Manhattan and various foreign locations. We actually begin to believe, for a moment, that Roberts and Owen may represent real people who devise such devious confidence schemes, and each time the proceedings approach the absurd, their romantic chemistry offers a necessary grounding.
For Owen, this could be the performance that finally lands him a mainstream hit. Always a strong character actor, with a rugged yet charming manner, he is instantly accessible and endearing and, at moments, reminiscent of an ultra suave Cary Grant. And, like that legendary actor, Owen never seems to reveal everything on his mind. The mystery contributes to the magic. Supporting performers Wilkinson and Giamatti also have a great deal of fun chewing every ounce of corporate scenery.
Duplicity stands as a particular triumph for Roberts who returns to a starring role on screen for the first time in several years. There is enough of the Julia we love — the endearing smile, outrageous laugh, warm eyes — to remind us why we have been on her side for so long. And she brings a sincerity that has seasoned with time, a quiet confidence that enables her to actually do less during key moments of the film. For such a strong performer, less certainly is more.
Duplicity offers an ideal escape from a corporate world that can feel all too real these days. You’ll be glad you treated yourself.
* Content: High. This is a marvelous cinema snack with just enough movie-going calories to make you feel quite satiated.
* Entertainment: High. As with the best of snacks, this one is tasty, filled with surprise and leaves no after taste.
* Message: Low. A snack is a snack. For a message, jump to a serious film.
* Relevance: Medium. Anyone looking for a diversion from newspaper headlines will savor this journey into a fantasy world of romance and beautiful people.
* Opportunity for Dialogue: Low. Without real nutritious value, there’s little to discuss, and this is not a film for young children. Still, parents, enjoy the cinema splurge.
4 Popcorn Buckets
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