Do we even care about these characters enough to worry about their machinations?
Beyond the duplicity that is the title and theme of this film, the romance between the leads must work. It doesn’t. It fizzles. And even though Roberts and Owens are great actors, they don’t add up to much here. I think the filmmakers were banking on the pair, who are good friends publicly, and did make “Closer” together, to have good screen chemistry. They didn’t in Closer and they definitely don’t here. It’s almost as if they’re trying to one up each other with charm and beauty in every scene. That’s not how it works in a romance. Someone has to be more charming, and the other person has to be more beautiful. You cannot have two lead dancers in a waltz.
Another disappointment in Duplicity is the waste of Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti. Here are two of the finest character actors around, and they’re simply getting run through the paces. This is all very surprising coming from writer/director Tony Gilroy. He’s made a career of writing crisp, clever films (Bourne series, Michael Clayton). Maybe he was overpowered by his A-list leads and was afraid to dial back a few key moments? Regardless, the acting talent in the film does not make it good and that’s usually the fault of the director.
Duplicity ends up a bore, but there is hope for its director. Gilroy has a good eye in his second directorial effort; “Michael Clayton” is first film. He’s a fantastic writer, so this is just a mere stumble. He may want to try a smaller film, with lesser known talent for his next project. I have a feeling we may get a better product than this vanity piece for Roberts and Owen.