Friday, March 27, 2009

Casablanca 5+ Duplicity 3.5

For a spell of several weeks there Kathleen and I did not see any new movies, just re-watched some of our old favorites such as Casablanca. Brilliant, as the Brits would say! Everything in this movie is perfect: the script, the photography, the acting, the setting, the soundtrack, the ending. Yes, the soundtrack probably deserves to be higher up in the list. If there is a better movie out there I have yet to see it. For my money, Claude Rains as Captain Renault steals the show. True, he has many of the best lines including ‘Round up the usual suspects!’ but his timing is spotless and his almost impish sense of delight to be at the nexus of this intrigue is almost palpable. I was shocked, shocked! to find out that he was nominated for, but did not win, an Oscar for best supporting actor that year (1942). If you don’t have the digitally remastered DVD version of this masterpiece in your collection, drop whatever you’re doing, rush out to Best Buy and get it today. Make some popcorn, hope for rainy weather and enjoy.

Will people be holding such exalted views of the latest Julia Roberts movie, Duplicity, 65 years from now? No, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go out and see this movie. There’s not much else around this time of the year. Julia Roberts is extremely likable, and she is second probably only to Kate Winslet in acting ability amongst current ‘A-list’ actresses. Duplicity comes alive whenever she is on the screen which is fortunately most of the time. Unfortunately, the movie has several shortcomings, not the least of which is an overly complicated, some might even say convoluted plot. Is it really necessary to have so many flashbacks? Every now and then I had to make a mental halt to figure out if we were in the now, or the then. This does nothing for keeping the tension alive. Eventually I gave up and just went along for the ride, so to speak. Which was quite enjoyable, just not as satisfying as it might have been. There are some gorgeous hotel room settings (the Miami view gets my vote for #1), superb photography, altogether a delectable, stylish, classy affair. The romance doesn’t quite pass the smolder-test (see Casablanca for that), but at least Clive Owen doesn’t disappear next to Roberts like so many other actors would. Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson weigh in with a couple of fine performances too. Overall a perfectly fun and enjoyable couple of hours at the movies.

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