Year Released: 2009
Directed by: Tony Gilroy
Starring: Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti, Tom Wilkinson
(PG-13, 125 min.)
"To suspect a friend is worse than to be deceived by him." Francois de la Rochefoucauld
Take one part 007 spy-jinx romance, whisk in some high tech mind games via television’s “Mission Impossible,” and spice it up with a few David Mamet type sly maneuvers. Boil off any real malevolence or violence, and you have one steaming hot dish to tantalize your palate as well as your “little grey cells.”
CIA operative Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts) and her MI6 counterpart Ray Koval (Clive Owen), are friendly rivals – friendly as in their initial Dubai tryst; rivals in that Claire drugs her new lover to cop his secret documents. But as much as they deny it, the attraction is as strong or stronger than their cynical, deceptive natures. They finally opt out of their government jobs and checks, deciding to use their skills in the corporate world, where the payoffs will be world class; that is, if their con works.
Tony Gilroy, who directed and penned the script, takes a much lighter touch with corporate greed than he did in Michael Clayton. The corporate bad boys are no longer out to poison your drinking water. Nor do they use bank funds to invest in small arms for third world thugs, the rogues Clive Owen chased relentlessly across the globe in The International.
No, these are two corporate charmers: Howard Tully, played by a twinkling Tom Wilkinson, who captivated us as the corporate lawyer turned knight errant in Michael Clayton, and Richard Garsik (Paul Giamatti), and they only want to annihilate their competition -- and perhaps each other -- instead of the world at large. The closest we come to bloodshed is a slow motion confrontation between the two, who somehow wind up next to each other on a rain soaked tarmac. Their sober special assistants watch in numb disbelief under very proper black umbrellas as the two rival CEOs scream, push, and claw each other like toddlers on a sugar high. The only real battle is this film is a double crust pizza war or a face cream face-off.
Well, of course, we do also have another war going on, perhaps the longest standing in history. It dates back to when Eve ate the apple and brought us mankind’s downfall, that is, if you believe Adam’s version of the story. Yes, the battle of the sexes is prominent here, where it is ironically a kind of aphrodisiac. Neither Claire nor Ray quite trusts each other, and perhaps that love complication rings true with a lot of couples watching the film.
Unlike Julia Roberts’ and Clive Owen’s contorted relationship is 2004’s Closer, which left a sour taste in my mouth, their chemistry here is electric and charming. We already knew Owen could do malevolently lecherous (Closer), righteously intense (The International) and ruthlessly criminal (Inside Man), but did we suspect he could also do at least a touch of Cary Grant? Indeed, their banter is a kind of flirtation not unlike that between Grant and Eva Marie Saint in Hitchcock’s classic North by Northwest
Claire: “Would it make any difference if I said I love you?”
Ray: “If you said it or if I believed you?”
But Ray, at least, lets down a few barriers when he admits…
"That woman... That woman knows who I am and loves me anyway."
Julia Roberts carries her side of the con and the romance with equal heft. A particularly riveting scene is her interrogation of an employee whose has unwittingly revealed corporate secrets under the influence of Ray’s not inconsiderable charm. Her slow burn under a stoic mask as the graphic details spill out is either hilarious or painful, depending on how sick your sense of humor is. What I do miss is Roberts’ “1000 megawatt smile,” which the script offers very few opportunities for her to flash, making me realize as I did by its similar absense in the Oceans franchise, just how much of Roberts’ beauty and dazzle depend on that smile.
A minor complaint is the film’s blind eye to corruption and greed. Hollywood is quick to eviscerate big business, rogue branches of the CIA, or the military when they go astray, but the protagonists in this film get a free pass. Their forty million dollar scam aims to squeeze its lucre not just from corporations, (greedy institutions ripe for their comeuppance, according to the latest PC crowd), but from the genius inventor as well. Both leave their spy game like that, as if it were just a game, with no patriotic qualms or even the excuse of disillusionment. Their forty million dollar recipe for romance paints both love and national service in a cynical light.
Perhaps it is this hollow center that makes Duplicity's cinematic dance just that, an exercise in fancy footwork that entertains but never completely connects.
Part of the film’s humor is the contrast between the banality of the corporate products and the Machiavellian maneuvers their executives employ to best each other.
Face creams and toothpaste are the new domain of Ex CIA operative Claire Stenwick. Ray Koval’s first civilian job is dealing with commercial espionage, this time in Cleveland’s pizza trade, specifically the double crust double cross.
Another tightly guarded secret in the frozen pizza world, the new cold war arena where Ray now lurks, is the Hawaiian Pizza, a South Seas version with ham and pineapple chunks.
Quite frankly, this version does not go done well with my Italian culinary roots, but I have found the best version of it that I could, rejecting those that mixed “pizza sauce” in with the pineapples.
If today’s tropic version does not tickle your palate, here are a few other pizza recipes featured in the past:
- Prepared pizza crust (recommended: Boboli)
- 2 cups shredded or cubed cooked chicken breast
- 1 cup diced pineapple
- 1 cup diced baked ham
- 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
- 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack cheese
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Place pizza crust on a baking sheet and top with all remaining ingredients, in the order listed.
Bake 8 to 12 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.
Recipe Source: foodnetwork.com