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Duplicity Movie Review

- 30 March 2009, 08:03

Sparkling Co-Stars, Disjointed Plot
by Betty Jo Tucker

Linear storytelling falls by the wayside in Duplicity as characters played by Julia Roberts and Clive Owen struggle to make sense out of their feelings for each other. Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones struggling during filmmaker Tony Gilroy’s follow-up to his Michael Clayton success. I had great difficulty with this thriller’s many flashback scenes, which frequently interrupt the story’s flow.  So did my husband and daughter who attended the screening with me. “Annoying,” was my daughter’s conclusion. “Irritating,” my husband added.

Still, we all agreed about the sizzling chemistry between Roberts and Owen. They are fascinating to watch together. Roberts (Erin Brockovich) plays a former CIA operative working in counterintelligence for a huge cosmetic corporation. Owen (The International) is a former MI-5 agent hired by a rival company. These two suspicious individuals, who join forces to carry out a complicated  con job, obviously have a love/hate relationship — and considering their spy backgrounds, will they ever be able to trust one another?

In addition to her trademark smile, Roberts gets the opportunity to display chilling anger, especially in one scene requiring an expression of silent, jealous rage. And Owen shows off his charming side when his character adopts a Texas accent in order to seduce a naïve female cosmetic firm employee (Carrie Preston). Sadly, it’s not easy to care about either one of these main characters.

Duplicity focuses on corporate espionage involving the introduction of a mysterious groundbreaking product. The top executives of both companies (Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson) are longstanding enemies, a fact established in a very clever slow-motion sequence at the beginning of the movie. Giamatti receives more screen time than Wilkinson and makes the most of it by delivering a frenetic and highly entertaining performance — his best since American Splendor but I’m disappointed at not seeing the always wonderful Wilkinson (In the Bedroom) more on screen here.

Besides its overuse of flashbacks, Duplicity falters by including so much computer activity instead of physical action. (Have you noticed how this can drag a movie down?) And, although some of the dialogue is quite witty, the movie seems too talky much of the time. But most of all, the film is simply exhausting to follow.

(Released by Universal Pictures and rated “PG-13” for language and some sexual content.)

For more information about Duplicity, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.

Betty Jo Tucker is a member of the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and the San Diego Film Critics Society (SDFCS). She  teaches an online class, “The Reel Deal: Writing about Movies” for the LSS School of Writing and has published three movie-related books including CONFESSIONS OF A MOVIE ADDICT, an amusing memoir about her life at the movies. Betty Jo serves as the editor/lead film critic for ReelTalk Movie Reviews and hosts a weekly radio show, “Movie Addict Headquarters,” for BlogTalkRadio. She also writes monthly film commentary for the Colorado Senior Beacon.  For more information, please go to www.BettyJoTucker.com


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