Until Death Do Us Part - Jonas

Jumaat, Mac 20, 2009

#304. Cinema : Stars can't save 'Duplicity'

Comedy-drama. Starring Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti and Carrie Preston. Directed by Tony Gilroy. [PG-13. 125 minutes].

In "Michael Clayton," his first film as a writer-director, Tony Gilroy weighed his screenplay down with unnecessary detail, and he directed it in an uninflected way, as though every scene had equal weight. The result was a movie that was hard to follow. Yet he saved it by keeping his camera on George Clooney's face. Clooney was the film's locus of meaning. It didn't matter if you didn't know what was going on - Clooney was what was going on. In the midst of the confusion, here was a character study.Alas, with "Duplicity," it looks as if Gilroy has taken the wrong lesson from his 2007 success. His screenplay for "Duplicity," about corporate spying, is more than confusing. It's opaque. Details are piled on and on. Two people will have an intense conversation about other characters, but whom are they talking about? Who knows? And throughout, the time sequence is juggled, so as to deliberately keep the audience off-balance.

If only the script's Chinese puzzle quality were subordinated to the exploration of character - in this case, two characters, a pair of government agents turned corporate spies, played by Julia Roberts and Clive Owen. But despite the considerable laying on of charm by both stars, they can't make their respective characters into objects of fascination. They remain rudimentary constructs. Their dialogue sounds like something out of a script, and their relationship holds no interest, except for the easily exhaustible fun of thinking, "Oh, yeah, there's Clive Owen. Oh, yeah, there's Julia Roberts. Yes, indeed, and don't they look nice together."

Actually, Gilroy could have kept his cardboard characters and saved his movie in another way - by making his plot-puzzle into a thing of absolute beauty. But he didn't. Instead, we get a mystery that, when it finally unravels, lands in an unsatisfying zone between "Huh?" and "Who cares?"

As a caper film, "Duplicity" is a fizzle. As a mystery, it's a cheat. David Mamet is a guy who knows how to make movies like this, and he does it by not telling us everything he knows. Rather, he tells us everything we need to know. Gilroy does exactly the reverse: He refuses to tell us what we need to know, but he tells us every last thing he knows about corporate espionage and the various subordinate characters. The results are deadening.

The movie's pleasures are incidental, but if you get talked into seeing it, you'll be glad for every scrap you can salvage: Julia Roberts' eyes. Clive Owen in a dark suit. (Where did he learn how to float when he walks?) Paul Giamatti, at his comic best, as another feral weasel, this time the chief executive of a cosmetics company. Carrie Preston in a terrific cameo as a trusting travel coordinator who allows herself to be seduced by Owen - and she's glad she did it, glad, glad, glad! Funny stuff.

Gilroy writes good banter, though he spoils the effect of his best scene by actually reprising the same dialogue three more times - in one case, believe it or not, to have other characters comment on the brilliance of said banter.

The good actors give "Duplicity" the sheen of quality. So do the movie's various locations: New York City. Rome, right by the Pantheon. The picture has everything but a good script and good direction. Actually, it could have survived the direction.

-- Advisory: Pretty harmless. Pains were taken to stay within the PG-13 rating, and the strain becomes obvious in the euphemisms used throughout

Source : sfGate

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