The trades really like ‘Duplicity’

Posted by · 5:36 pm · March 16th, 2009

I must say, I liked the look of Tony Gilroy’s “Duplicity” from the get-go. However, being a sucker for jazzy caper thrillers in the “Charade” vein, as well as for most things starring Clive Owen, I wasn’t sure whether to trust my instincts there.

In any case, given the amiable slightness of the trailer and the indifferent release date (not to mention that awful title), I wasn’t expecting a critical hit — but going on the early trade reviews, it looks like that’s what we may have here. Todd McCarthy’s Variety rave gushes as follows:

Smart, droll and dazzling to look at and listen to, writer-director Tony Gilroy’s effervescent, intricately plotted puzzler proves in every way superior to his 2007 success “Michael Clayton.” The twisty, time jumping narrative forces viewers to keep on their toes, and it could well be that “Duplicity” is too smart for its own good as far as the popcorn masses are concerned. Still, this is about as good as it gets these days for sharp-minded Hollywood entertainment made for an intelligent audience.

Topping “Michael Clayton” isn’t the hardest of tasks in my mind, but given the devoted following the film enjoys, that’s no light praise: McCarthy invokes Lubitsch comparisons at one point. Meanwhile, nearly every major cast member and craftsman (a pretty dazzling array, it must be said, including Robert Elswit, Albert Wolsky and James Newton Howard) is singled out for kudos.

Meanwhile, the lovefest continues at Screen International:

Tony Gilroy’s second feature is sophisticated adult entertainment which puts the lazy Ocean’s films to shame with its clever writing, lively direction and visual panache. An old-fashioned caper with a refreshingly keen desire to entertain … The actors rise to the occasion. Roberts is no stranger to flirtatious romantic comedy, but Owen is unusually charming here, successfully playing against the humourless, rugged type in which he has been traditionally cast.

Kirk Honeycutt at the Hollywood Reporter is similarly charmed — and also suggests that Gilroy has excelled his previous effort — but offers the caveat that nothing much is at stake in the narrative, making the film “cerebral more than emotional fun.”

Regardless, this could be the first 2009 release that I’m actually looking forward to seeing. I might even put it on my list of outside possibilities in Best Original Screenplay last year, given the apparent intricacy of the writing and Gilroy’s general popularity within the industry of late. Yeah, it’s early to be thinking about such things — but hey, “In Bruges” had been and gone this time last year.

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11 responses so far

  • 1 3-16-2009 at 6:32 pm

    Scott Ward said...

    I highly, highly doubt it is better than Michael Clayton.

    And am I the only one who cringes at Clive Owen’s acting just from the trailer.

  • 2 3-16-2009 at 6:40 pm

    Chris said...

    Clive Owen owes me a good time at the cinema after that horrible mess called “The International”, so I take it that’s good news.

  • 3 3-16-2009 at 8:57 pm

    head_wizard said...

    You aren’t the only one Scott Ward, Can Clive do anything but that sauve hard ass guy routine. Plus whats with all the Michael Clayton bashing I thought it was great all around. Good pacing, great acting, solid story that was simlpe and elegant without to many random “surprises”

  • 4 3-17-2009 at 1:25 am

    Alex said...

    Don’t hate on Clive Owen. He was in Children of Men, which was probably the most affecting film I have seen in the past 10 years.

  • 5 3-17-2009 at 1:56 am

    Robert Hamer said...

    Clive Owen is a great actor. Anyone who says that he only plays one character needs to see Closer and Children of Men.

    Julia Roberts, on the other hand, THAT’S the cringe-worthy element of this film. Her appeal evaporated a long time ago and now only serves to mar otherwise good films.

  • 6 3-17-2009 at 5:28 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Wow I was hoping this would turn out to be great! This sure looks like the most fun we’ll have this side of the year.

  • 7 3-17-2009 at 8:01 am

    Chase Kahn said...

    In a year as terrific as 2007, ‘Michael Clayton’ seems to have been severely pidgeon-holed as a ‘Frost/Nixon’ clone. (i.e. an okay movie that got nominated for Best Pic).

    I think it’s an outstanding script, good perfs. from Swinton, Clooney, Wilkinson. It wasn’t great, but I thought it was damn good — and still do.

  • 8 3-17-2009 at 9:05 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Chase: I have no problem with “Michael Clayton” — solid picture — but I don’t think a writer/director of Gilroy’s ability should have much trouble in surpassing it. That’s all I meant.

    I certainly think it’s a hell of a lot better than “Frost/Nixon.”

  • 9 3-17-2009 at 10:29 am

    GordonsGirl said...

    Hamer, I’m going to disagree with you on Roberts. Now, she irritated me for years, but I really liked her in “Closer.” Her chemistry with Owen is fantastic. Could it be now that she doesn’t need Hollywood, Roberts may actually prove to be an real actress, not just a star?

  • 10 3-18-2009 at 7:51 am

    mark said...

    seems this will be the film to put julia back on top but i get the feeling she’s not concerened with being box office queen anymore,i think she will work less the older she gets.

  • 11 3-18-2009 at 1:48 pm

    Missy said...

    I saw Closer and Children of Men, and Clive
    Owen lacks dimension and depth. He is bland and lacks charisma. He is a solid, functional actor but nothing special. I also thought Michael Clayton was grossly overrated. Superior films about that kind of subject matter were made in the 70’s and 90’s. The movie felt like more a stage play, could not get into the characters.
    The characters and the movie was cold and hollow. They throw out a bunch of technical jargon about buisness and pseudo-intellectuals are impressed. Cate Blanchett deserved that Best Supporting Oscar over Tilda. It was a far more challenging role and she pulled it off like nobody else could. Gilroy is benefitting from a good bias right now. I bet you if the Clooney factor and his great covert compaigning for the film did not exist, it would not have been viewed as a great movie, certaintly not Oscar-worthy.
    That was a B-grade movie and would have been forgettable without the calculated buzz and nominations.

    Frost VS. Nixon was leagues above Michael Clayton and certaintly is better than Duplicity. I didn’t find Children of Men affecting at all, interesting theme but the movie didn’t carry it out in an impressive way. I also thought 2007 was a lame year with mediocre nominees. I don’t know why it is being declared as a great year. I even thought 2008 was a stronger year.