Julia Roberts returns to the silver screen and reteams with her CLOSER co-star Clive Owen in the love story/heist flick DUPLICITY. This is the kind of film you would have seen Rock Hudson and Doris Day starring in half a century ago, albeit not quite as risqué.
Roberts and Owen are former CIA and MI6 agents Ray and Claire, working private security and trying to pull off a dream heist. Their victims in the scam are competing CEO’s of rival toiletry companies, Howard and Richard, played by Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti. The goal of our heroes is to uncover a top secret new product and then sell it to the highest international bidder and retire young and wealthy. What they’re not prepared for is the amount of trust they have to place in each other or the lack of trust their employers place in them.
The subplot of the film is the banter and accusations that fly between Ray and Claire. When they first met, Claire had betrayed Ray and since their relationship was founded on lies and their profession forces them to lie constantly, they can’t seem to find a way to trust each other. This is where the movie starts to falter. There’s enough material here to create two separate films; one where we focus on two secret agents that carry their romantic involvement all over the globe and another film where we focus on two former secret agents that try and cheat a big corporation. When the two plots are combined, we’re left wanting more from each story.
The story between Ray and Claire was never properly developed and when they cut to their scenes via flashbacks, it did nothing but distract from the complicated heist story. Each time we had a flashback, I expected it to reveal a key plot point or further the story we were witnessing in present day. But each time, I was disappointed when the flashbacks proved to be seemingly meaningless. I assume the goal was to establish the characters, but without any back-story, or reason to their “love”, I found myself uninterested. These were not likeable characters and a little genuineness and charm would have gone a long way.
The gem of the film is Paul Giamatti and his slightly evil portrayal of Richard Garsik, the underhanded CEO that’s trying to steal secrets from his rival. Giamatti is great in everything, but he added much needed life to a film that was full of otherwise stale characters. It would have been nice to get some reaction and emotion from Claire, but Roberts played her with such an emotionless demeanor that she was an instantly forgettable character. Clive Owen didn’t do much better as Ray, and neither of the two leads managed to do much in their roles, which is disappointing given their success in other films.
That’s not to say the film didn’t have some redeeming qualities, because it definitely did. I enjoyed the heist aspect of the story and thought that they crafted a very intelligent plot to have our heroes work through. I also absolutely loved the ending, which was very fitting for a movie like this. Unfortunately, the empty characters and underdeveloped plot points prevented this film from ever taking off.