You'll enjoy the players as they get played in the charming, winning "Duplicity"
“Julia Roberts and Clive Owen, this entertaining, enjoyable and stylish comedy is muddled at times and has too many holes, but the two immensely charming leads effortlessly carry “Duplicity.” Without their crisp chemistry, it wouldn’t be near as good or near as much fun. ” is a sly, dashing spy movie that’s comes just in time to brighten up what’s been a slow, dark winter at the box-office. Written and directed by “ ’s” and starring
Roberts and Owen are Claire and Ray, two former government spies with a romantic past who decide to hookup professionally to pull off a multi-million dollar corporate scam that involves two competing, egotistical CEO’s, Howard Tully (Tom Wilkinson) and Dick Garsik ( ) and a high-priced hair care formula that will turn the world upside down. Whoever secures the formula first will reap a huge fortune, and Claire and Ray also hope to get in on this pay day. As the stakes get higher and higher and their attraction for each other growing by the minute, things get trickier and trickier and Claire and Ray must put everything on the line for this final, career-ending payoff.
“Duplicity” is a winning comedy that gambles on the flair of its engaging stars and works in large part because of them. Gilroy deals with similar corporate malfeasance issues he dealt with in “Michael Clayton,” just far less serious. There are several colorful exchanges between Roberts and Owen that are the centerpiece of the film in trying to stay one-double cross ahead of each other. As they become romantically entangled, they must also deal with issues of love, trust and faithfulness (especially in one fun exchange involving a thong). The chemistry Roberts and Owen had previously in 2004’s “Closer” is even more palpable here than in that glum film and engages the audience from their first scene that makes this movie seem as if it was tailored just for them.
More problematic about “Duplicity” is Gilroy’s script, which is densely overplotted. The plot is muddled and difficult to follow, requiring the audience to follow nearly every single plot detail, a challenge given the charming leads. And it works smartly until the final act, when the players are played and you realize a couple of gaping holes – mainly that our lead characters are much smarter than the script intends them to be. The romantic angles also could’ve been played up more for more heat but the Roberts-Owen chemistry is still warm enough by itself.
The supporting roles work well with the film. Wilkinson, also in Gilroy’s “Michael Clayton,” is effective but underused as Tully, while Giamatti hams it up considerably as the annoying Garsik. Also watch for Tom McCarthy, director of last year’s exceptional “The Visitor,” in a small role as a corporate colleague of Roberts. Gilroy’s direction is impressive as it was in "Clayton" and stays wisely focused on the two leads.
Speaking of which, without Roberts and Owen, “Duplicity” would be just another mediocre spy whodunit and they are the real reason to see this engaging, entertaining early spring film. You may not buy (or completely understand) all of the story, but it's worth the trip.