Rated: PG-13 language and some sexual content Reviewed by: Frank Release date: March 20, 2009 Released by: Universal Studios, Inc.
Is Duplicity really about lotion vs. cream, a battle of the sexes or competition between two cosmetic corporate mongols? Howard Tully (Tom Wilkinson) and Richard Garsik (Paul Giamatti) are the tycoons while Julia Roberts plays Claire and Clive Owen is Ray as the cosmetic spies and periodic lovers who appear to be working with and against each other. The apparent double dealing permeates the script particularly as the two lovers meet from time over a period of five years generally for an affair. But even those events in many romantic cities end in arguments about trust or suspicion or Duplicity.
The relationship between the two corporate undercover agents never feels true. They may be and probably are part of the conspiracy but which side is deliberately concealed to add to our curiosity as to what is happening. But Duplicity works too hard at confusion, it begins five years earlier and contains frequent trips back which, rather than producing intrigue, bring more confusion as the script attempts to carry us into a world with great pressure to keep a secret as if world security were in their hands.
Giamatti and Wilkinson carry off the image of powerful men who are paranoid about the other's success and the possibility of getting a comeuppance from the other. Giamatti is constantly irrational and over-the top. The game has all too much meaning for his character Garsik and it shows in both comical and threatening styles.
As the two lovers reveal they expect their action to be worth 20 to 40 million dollars we are left to wonder what could be worth that much? The heart of the plot is held to the end and the double dealing falls on many heads and the victors revel in victory as all others are crushed.
A sub plot falls into an organic chemistry lab lead effectively by Kathleen Chalfant who plays Pam with glee, where research, confusion, passing of information, controlling and validating of each character's actions takes place.
Duplicity is a better film than what comes through. Director-writer Tony Gilroy works more that what is necessary to confuse. He would have been more effective with a smooth line of discovery. That would have allowed the effective performances to stand out and hold our attention to the plot rather than the jerky movements through time.