Review: Duplicity Ends Up Being Solid

"It's by no means a great film, but making a merely good film is no small feat either."

 

The mistake I made with Duplicity was catching the trailer on television. They say to never judge a film by its trailer (or is that book by its cover?) and that's certainly the case here. Because while both the trailer and opening 15 minutes of the film look typical, rote, and fairly boring, the film acquits itself rather well overall. Which is to say you should skip the trailer ... but see the film.

Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti, and Tom Wilkinson fill the acting roles. The film is written and directed by Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton). The plot is purposefully vague so I won't get into it much here, but I feel safe telling you that corporate espionage is afoot with Julia and Clive in the leading spy roles. There's also the requisite love angle, set alongside Giamatti and Wilkinson playing opposing titans of industry.

What Duplicity does very well is highlight the often-comic element of the script. This isn't a romantic comedy, in fact it's far closer in pedigree to Ocean's 13 than it is Fool's Gold. It's a heist film at its core, though what exactly is being heisted remains a mystery throughout, as does the whole loyalty (is it Julia vs. Clive OR Clive plus Julia?) issue. It does bear a tiny resemblance to Mr. and Mrs. Smith, though I don't believe any marriages were harmed during the filming. Zing!

Where Duplicity misses are the opening credits (far too long and stylized), the occasional melodrama, and the decision to just not go the dark comedy route. I think there was something to be said for a thorough corporate-skewering film, but Gilroy chooses instead to balance his romance and his comedy, though I've mentioned this isn't really a romantic comedy. It's in this balance that the film loses a little momentum. The Julia and Clive angle has its moments, but really we'd have been far better off with an extra 15-minutes of Paul Giamatti.

Should you see it? Well, if you actually liked the trailer I can't imagine you'll come away too disappointed. The film is not nearly as light and fluffy as the two-minute spot indicates, but it is far more interesting. It's by no means a great film, but making a merely good film is no small feat either. As we're just past the Ides of March on our movie calendar this could have gone much, much worse. A solid date night, a fun matinee, or a nice intellectual exercise, Duplicity has a little something for everyone.

Grade: B