If it seems like Julia Roberts is working less and less these days, it's probably because she is. After joining the "$20 million" club Roberts decided she was making enough money to slow down her work schedule and spend more time with her family. The bad news about this is that we see her in less films. The good news is without many movies to make she now has time to carefully read all the scripts she wants and pick the right ones to sign on for. Surely this was the case when she decided to make "Duplicity," which I can only imagine read better then it actually plays out on screen. The movie revolves around Roberts character named Claire Senwick, who is an ex CIA-agent. The movie also revolves around Ray Koval (Clive Owen), who is an ex-M-19. These two are supposed to be partners in a crime that involves two corporate cosmetics companies.
The mission is to steal information from one company and give it to another. And these companies don't mess around; when Ray lets the CEO of one of the companies know that the rival company is making a new shampoo the CEO asks "shampoo or cream? You have no idea how many times people confuse the two." This should be fairly easy, but seeing that our star players once had a one-night stand that resulted in bad following day...well, the two aren't exactly on good terms with each other. Flashbacks will tell us why. Or maybe they won't. This movie was written and directed by Tony Gilroy, who's debut film was "Michael Clayton" in 2007. That movie was a complicated puzzle of a film, but it wasn't so complicated that someone couldn't figure out what was going on if they simply paid attention.
The movie also packed an emotional punch with it's involving characters, and as a result the film garnered seven Academy Award nominations. I don't expect "Duplicity" to do the same. This film is a comedy, and a convoluted one at that. Gilroy uses the same flashback and split screen stuff he used in his previous film, but here it feels much more sloppy than effective. Since this is supposed to be a fun romp it's difficult to get involved in this complicated form of storytelling. We can't even laugh as much as we want to because we're too busy trying to figure out who's betraying who. Well, betraying, screwing, humping, and pumping. And yet, for all the confusion the film is still a tad predictable in the sense that whenever something comes up you automatically know it's not what it seems.
The question is what it is. But we don't care. We don't care because this is shampoo, and most people could care less about this sort of thing. We don't care because the movie gives us too many things to think about and not enough stuff to life. And we don't care because our leads are unlikable. Their constant distrust of each other becomes more annoying then sexy, and the flashbacks that make them likable take way too long to pan out. I think Gilroy made this film because he wanted to make a movie that would be more fun to make then the last time around. Now that he's had his free paycheck I would like to recommend he get back on his typewriter and write a screenplay that will really blow us away next time.
Grade: ** stars
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The film opens five years earlier than the present, showing the Fourth of July celebration at the American consulate in Dubai, where Ray Koval (Clive Owen), an MI6 agent, appears to seduce Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts), unknowingly to him a CIA agent. Claire manages to drug Ray and steals classified documents from him.
The scene cuts to Howard Tully (Tom Wilkinson), the CEO of Burkett & Randle, and Dick Garsik (Paul Giamatti), the CEO of Equikrom, illustrating the rivalry between the two consumer product corporations when they get into a brawl upon encountering each other on thetarmac.
In the present day, Ray is a corporate spy in New York City who goes to work for Equikrom; at a meet, he spots Claire, thinking the mission is blown. When Ray follows her and confronts her finally for the incident in Dubai, Claire persistently puts up an innocent act, pretending she has never met Ray, until they both realize they were supposed to meet. Claire has been undercover as a counter-intelligence officer at Burkett & Randle for the past 14 months, and Ray is to become her new handler.
At Burkett & ...