23 March 2009

Duplicity, I Love You, Man

starring Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, Paul Giamatti, Tom Wilkinson
written & directed by Tony Gilroy
Universal, 2009, 125 mins., Rated PG-13

** (out of ****)

It's within the last two minutes of this very, very long heist thriller that everything suddenly becomes worth it. Granted, the finale might make you feel like you wasted two hours of your life, but it's so fitting and tidy - not to mention quite humorous - that nearly everything is forgiven. Besides, we're treated with two awesome performances from Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson playing big-time corporate CEOs, who quite easily steal the entire film from our two leads. When the closing credits rolled, the only scene that I really thought about was during the opening credits, when Giamatti and Wilkinson walk toward eat other at a airfield, barking profanities (one assumes - dialog takes backstage to the music) and engaging in a knock-out dragfight until their respective goonies come in to stop them. You could stop the entire movie right there, and you'd be satisfied. But sadly, and I say this with a heavy heart because I want to throw accolades to everything Clive Owen does, the movie is rather boring, potentially losing your interest relatively quickly.

Or, of course, that could just be me and your eyes are glued to the screen every second of its running time.

Keep in mind, I'm not saying the flick's bad - not by a bloody longshot. In fact, it has a pretty fun script that occasionally thinks it's smarter than it actually is, and all the cast members give top-notch performances that are so giddy and fun that you sorta wish you were there when they were filming this movie, because it's obvious they had a jolly good time. And if those two factors don't work for you, and you're a soundtrack-phile, Duplicity works for you, too.

Getting ahead of myself - anyway, Duplicity is about a very intricate, complicated "Ha! Fooled you!" type movie where our two leads - Owen and Roberts - are two highly skilled ex-government agents (one ex-M16, one ex-CIA) infiltrate the perspective companies of the two head honchos: Giamatti and Wilkinson. Wilkinson announces that he is developing a product that will change the world of something to that degree - in essence, very important. Owen and Roberts are on a mission to get that product formula and collect some mullah from the highest bidder. There's so much more than that going on, but I felt I'd make it simple.

Let's get this part out of the way: the cast is excellent, as stated above. Owen and Roberts are a awesome pair that develop a sufficient enough spark to make their so-called 'relationship' interesting enough to suffer through (more on this later). But, as I also said above, the show-stealers are Giamatti and Wilkinson. I don't think these guys have a bad performance bone in their body. Of course, I haven't seen their whole body of work, so it's a premature statement, but from what I've seen of them, they're convicted to their roles wholeheartedly, and I always seem to walk away from one of their movies with even more respect to 'em.

As for the 'suffer through' comment, Duplicity is also needlessly long and has giant leaps of boringness. And the real kicker is that even during particular heist sequences and plans gone awry moments...I was bored. Perhaps something's wrong with me - I mean, I didn't exactly feel the tension of the Frost and Nixon interviews in Ron Howard's creatively titled Frost/Nixon whereas many others were glued to every second of screentime. Point is, the film coulda used a little longer in the cutting room.

For a "thrilling" heist movie, Duplicity bores one a little bit, but the last two minutes either make or break the film. Some will love it, some will not-so-much dig it. Me, being one of those who loved it, find that it salvaged the film. Let me reiterate: Duplicity is NOT bad, it's just boring.

I Love You, Man
starring Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Rashida Jones, J.K. Simmons, Jon Favreau
written by John Hamburg & Larry Levin
directed by John Hamburg
Dreamworks, 2009, 104 mins., Rated R

**1/2 (out of ****)

I love Paul Rudd. I didn't care that I Love You, Man looked to be a rehash of comedies that have come before; the simple fact that Rudd was the leading man with Segel as co-star was enough for me. So with the awesomeness of Rudd already in play, all I really cared about was that it was funny. Thankfully, it is.

I Love You, Man may not break any new territory in the plot department, but admittedly, the film's premise isn't exactly something explored thoroughly in films. It's either that the guy does something stupid and must make amends to his fiance, and his wise-cracking sidekick bud is there to tell him what's up and how to save the day; or a guy whose stuck in his childhood state but needs to grow up now. Here, we're treated with a grown-up, well-respected man with a wonderful, beautiful, understanding and independent fiancée, but he has no "best man", let alone a close male friend. All his life, he's pretty much been friends with the female persuasion, finding conversations with guys more awkward than anything else (and by extension, his scenes are awkward for us, too - but I enjoyed the hell out of it). But with a wedding coming up, he's desperate to find a close guy friend. And that's basically the plot of the film padded out with a lot of improv jokes and gags (is there any other these days?) and a ridiculous obsession with music [which seems to becoming a trend for Rudd, after playing a KISS-nerd in Role Models].

In a nutshell, Rudd is at his best [though I think I loved him the most - despite his lack of actual screentime - in last year's Forgetting Sarah Marshall] and Segel brings his down-to-earth, real-life type of guy persona to the table again, making him instantly relatable and likable. Rashida Jones, who has evidently had a already stable body of work of which I've apparently never seen, is quite the ideal wife with impeccable comedic skills. It's truly an ensemble cast that works together to make potentially mundane jokes seem like the best thing since sliced bread! [oh, how I hate that expression] One thing that irks me is that the great J.K. Simmons is sadistically underused. This guy was arguably one of the best things about such critically acclaimed films like Juno and Burn After Reading! It's a real kicker in the knockers that he doesn't have more scenes. In fact, I would pay big bucks just to watch him and one other co-star (preferably Rudd) bicker for a hour and a half without advancing any sort of a thing resembling a plot; he's that damn awesome.

I think the best compliment I can give I Love You, Man is that it felt real. Projects like 40-Year Old Virgin, Superbad, Knocked Up, Drillbit Taylor, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall - nothing felt real; it all came across as a heightened reality of sorts. Within the first 10 minutes of ILYM, there's a proposal and oral sex discussions via a speaker-phoned conversation with girlfriends, and none of that felt forced or made deliberately for laughs. Obviously, the main draw of a comedy is to elicit some "heheheh's" and "hahaha's", but a little bit of grounded reality goes a long way...

I highly recommend I Love You, Man, because not only is it a riot with phenomenal performances that you can identify with and earn your respect, but because it's a step above a majority of those other widely known projects that have that "Apatow Stamp of Approval." This flick proves you don't need to be in his wonderful graces to have one helluva fantastic film. Oh, and to see Rashida Jones - marry me, girl! I really wish I had more to say about I Love You, Man, but for some reason, I can never seen to write enough about comedies other than "it made me laugh" or "holy potatoes, Batman, this blows major shark chunks." Luckily, this film rocks. So go see it. Like, now-ish.

1 comment:

thebonebreaker said...

I definitely plan on checking out I Love You, Man as I too enjoy Rudd [and Segel for that matter]
Glad to hear that it is good!

Great reviews!