Duplicity: 3 Seconds to Ruin a Movie


Rating: (broken-hearted)

Maps of the Heart Nutshell: as in government and corporate espionage, so in love: caveat emptor!

Clive Owen has been my favorite (living) leading man for years, but after Children of Men the pickin’s have been slim, so I was really looking forward to Duplicity—finally, a Clive Owen flic with adventure, romance and a relatively worthy co-star—Julia Roberts.   The writer, Tony Gilroy, had done the Bourne films—even better.  He was also going to direct for the second time—his first was Michael Clayton which had its share of moments, so fair enough.

Then I saw the trailer. It looked smart and fun.  I was still excited.  Then I saw the movie—the first weekend it came out—and I was still enjoying it… right up until the part when I wasn’t.  It took 3 seconds to ruin the movie for me, and I suspect others, also.  Of course the movie made less than expected.  What were you thinking, Mr. Gilroy?!

Some background: Clive Owen and Julia Roberts are former government spies, now working for competing corporations.  They fall in love, of course, but being spies, they’re cynical and paranoid.  It’s the trust thing writ large.  But I was rooting for them.  They were clearly perfect for each other.  I wanted them to end up in their South Pacific hideaway, living off fresh fish and coconuts and mangos and heaping helpings of love 4eva.  Until I didn’t.

There were 3 silent seconds that derailed the plot completely.

The beginning of the scene is in the trailer—Julia wants to be sure Clive isn’t cheating on her, so she pretends she found a pair of black panties in his apartment.  Clive says that’s not possible—insists on it, and Julia reveals the scam, saying that, then, she’ll have to put them back on.  They were hers all along!  They cut the scene after that in the trailer, and it’s a fun moment.

The editor of that trailer is clearly smarter than Tony Gilroy, because Tony didn’t cut there—he went on, and showed a close-up of Clive’s face, breathing a sigh of relief.  For not getting caught.  Cause he’d been lying to her.

Scrrreeeeeeeeeeeeeech. What—whoa—huh?!?

So he’s a liar and a cheat, not only in work, but in love.  And we’re supposed to root for him, for Julia?  Why should Julia Roberts be risking her life for him, for their future?  Suddenly I have to chuck that whole idyllic South Pacific future.  It’s not true love and it’s not 4eva.  It’s not even right now.

3 silent seconds to ruin a film.  Just a “whew!” look on Clive Owen’s face, and his true character has been revealed, and I’m no longer invested in this man.  At all.  Because the moral of this character’s story is:  he didn’t get caught.  Whatta guy.

Yet here’s the (usual) bill of goods we were sold, and apparently the film’s advertising people were, too, who clearly hadn’t seen the film.  The copy writer wrote: “…two career loners find their schemes endangered by the only thing they can’t cheat their way out of: love.”

But Gilroy has shown that’s not true, because Clive’s character just cheated his way out of love—or into love.  So the whole premise of the movie is a house of cards.  The real premise of the movie is “Don’t get caught” or “Caveat emptor.”  Now there’s someone to look up to, kiddies.

I wait three years and get a $60 million dollar film with Clive and Julia, and it’s wrecked in 3 seconds.  I wouldn’t trust the leading man to deliver my take-out.

Why don’t actors catch this stuff?  In real life, Clive is famously happily married.  He’s stated more than a few times that he wouldn’t dream of cheating on his wife.  I thought that was why they CAST Clive Owen—because you needed an actor you could believe would rise above a life of lying as a government and corporate spy and be a man that’s worthy of the love of a good woman.

Is this the double standard again—if women sleep around they’re sluts, but if men do it they’re studly?  Because that’s what pulled me out of the movie more than anything else—that suddenly this was a movie for men, not women—again.  And not even all men, but men with certain lower propensities.

Once again, a movie not written for me, but for the type of men the writer/director thinks is leading-man cool.

Duplicity in work, duplicity in love.

Epic fail.


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