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Duplicity: Gilroy Directs Roberts and Owen

by Anne Thompson
March 16, 2009 8:54 AM
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Thompson on Hollywood

While Duplicity isn't as good as Michael Clayton, you can tell that it comes from the mind of Tony Gilroy. According to his recent profile in The New Yorker, he's a man who likes to surprise. Gilroy reminds me of Steven Soderbergh: he's trying to outsmart audience expectations so much that he sometimes outsmarts himself. (It makes sense that he wrote the Bourne series.) Clayton was warmed up by the charisma of George Clooney, as well as the whip-cracking brilliance of British actor Tom Wilkinson, who goes up against the great Paul Giamatti in Duplicity. The plot of this gorgeous and sexy character-based heist thriller twists and turns--revealing new information via two time-frames-- at a globe-trotting clip. This film is colder, brainier, and more schematic than Clayton, and less than romantic, which may disappoint women starved for mature relationship movies. Here's Variety's review.

Clive Owen is at the top of his game: virile, vulnerable, sexy, yearning, distrustful, clearly in love with fellow spy Julia Roberts. But like Trouble in Paradise or Prizzi's Honor, there is no honor among thieves.

Roberts is at an interesting career juncture. She's aging. At 41 she's gorgeous, skinny, with a full head of long red hair, still a magnetic movie star. But her cheeks are hollower. She's morphing into a mature woman who is more than a sex object: she holds her own with Owen, even dominates him, in a way that we are not used to seeing in movies (strong women are a staple on television). Her mature authority is slightly strident. Having taken five years off to raise her three kids, people are asking, is Roberts still a movie star? I object to Newsweek's suggestion that Roberts should be out playing the celebrity game.

I'd love to see Duplicity open huge just to prove that maintaining some distance, that elusive star mystery--which has worked for another 40ish mom, Jodie Foster, barring her misstep as a gun-toting vigilante in The Brave One-- is an effective strategy. Simply put, audiences will welcome Roberts in a role that they want to see her play. Whether this movie delivers that is another question.

It's tricky. A patently fake studio concoction which makes no pretense at portraying the real world, Duplicity probes not only ruthless business competition at any price (part of what got us into our current mess) but male/female power dynamics. It's a smart, entertaining movie that doesn't entirely satisfy.


originally posted on Variety.com

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