I've not worshipped at my local multiplex of late nearly as much as I used to, but spring break always seems to cry out for the movies, and so off we went to see Duplicity. We enjoyed it immensely. Then, we came home to a mediocre review from the usually reliable Lisa Schwarzbaum in my popular culture bible, Entertainment Weekly. Usually, the two of us get along like gangbusters, and so I wondered what the heck was going on here.
A couple of things, I think. The opening line of the review references Michael Clayton, the wonderful 2007 film by the same director/writer. Uh-oh. I admire Schwarzbaum because she usually gets genre. She does not expect every film to be the same and she generally understands that an action movie is different from a romantic comedy is different from an art film and that they need to be evaluated accordingly. For whatever reason (lousy Junior Mints?), she lost that ability here. She came to this film expecting to see Michael Clayton. She wanted the movie to reflect on our economic and emotional depression, to offer a mature consideration of corporate culture, and to provide "a more resonant despair" than it did. Yep, that's what I want in a caper comedy. Resonant despair. I came out of Ocean's Eleven thinking, "Great film, but where's the resonant despair?"
In a larger sense, though, her determination to see Michael Clayton blinded her to the serious point this "comedy" had to offer. As fun as it was, as beautiful as these two people are (Clive Owen and Julia Roberts are stunning here), this movie portrayed a world without trust. That's the reason for its title, Lisa. The director helped you all that he could; in a film filled with reversals, the title is Duplicity, so it's a film about...say it with me...trust. Or the lack thereof. Not to give anything away, but no one trusts anyone else. In fact, I'd argue that it's a pretty thinly disguised allegory about the morality and competence of our post 9/11, Dick Cheney-infused intelligence services. The two main characters are former officers for MI-6 and the CIA. The movie make a pretty simple but useful point--at a certain level of distrust, you can't get anything done. If you distrust everyone, then no one will help you and you will fail. Trust is necessary for competence.
Not an observation that will change the world, but, then, MC told us what we already knew as well. But it did so beautifully. Similarly, this is a lovely film with a pretty strong core. And you can look at Clive Owen/Julia Roberts.