Admit it, you don't trust me either.

Duplicity

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


 

          Give Julia Roberts and Clive Owen a spiffy script and watch the Alka Seltzer sizzle. “Duplicity” is polished to a high gloss by the avalanche of money slathered on locations in New York, Rome, Dubai, London, and the Bahamas to set the background for this tale of corporate espionage. As befits white collar crime, there is an abundance of manipulation and betrayal along with a refreshing absence of physical or emotional violence. The plot is so wickedly complex we can barely tell the difference between the good guys and the bad.

          Julia Roberts and Clive Owen make the story float from the moment they step on screen. Just watching them navigate the sea of sharks that surrounds them in this corporate caper is pure pleasure. As a team, they have that wonderful air of polish that Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell made such fun in the ‘30s. They have a light, practiced chemistry that comes from working together in the past; contagious confidence literally beams from their eyes. Entering their 40s, Roberts and Owen own the game of the lighthearted romp. They are your reason to go.

          Tony Gilroy, who wrote and directed, starts off with a comic bang. As the introductory credits roll, two identical private jets face each other on the tarmac. Their owners, Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson, CEOs of rival cosmetic products giants, rush toward each other to play out their war in a wonderfully awkward slow motion ballet of rage that brings appreciative laughter to the audience. We’re talking lipstick and toothpaste here, not missile plans.

          Claire (Julia Roberts) and Ray (Clive Owen) meet when she works for CIA and he for MI-6. Beyond that all we can figure out is that they become agents for the feuding corporations and, when the dollar amounts become irresistible, they move into partnership with each other. Why leave all that money on someone else’s table?

          The pace here is akin to an old Mack Sennett movie. Armed with technology, everyone on screen runs around wildly, and everyone richly deserves to lose. And remember the stakes: money and lotions. With no one to worry seriously about, we can enjoy ourselves watching the Roberts-Owen romance unfold in its own marvelous way. You will remember the charm of the moment when Roberts whispers in Owen’s ear with that enormous smile of good will, “Admit it, you don’t trust me either.” And think of the one romantic line that isn’t soaked in duplicity, Owen to Roberts, “I think about you even when you’re with me.”

          It is a tale of double agents and betrayal and of two stylish actors who know exactly what they are doing and do it with great charm. As the appropriate title has already told us, it’s all about duplicity. You’ll probably have a very good time, as I did, but if you happen to untangle the plot would you please email it to me at fergle@aol.com.
 


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