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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Adventureland & Duplicity

It's my current quest to catch up on all the notable (read: at least somewhat critically admired) movies of the first half of the year, now that many are out on DVD. Here are my quick thoughts on a couple of them.

Adventureland (2009)

The movie stars Jesse Eisenberg (who plays a sort of older, less pretentious version of his The Squid and the Whale character) as a Ivy League-grad who ends up working at an amusement park the summer after he graduates. He of course falls in love with a beautiful girl (Kristen Bell of, yes, Twilight, and she's good in this. The movie gets a lot of things right, including the period details. It really look and feels like 1987. I also thought the sense of early-20s ennui and searching was also well done. It's the kind of movie that's really pleasant to watch, very likable, but not necessarily one I'll go back to. I think it just lacked a certain umph for me. And I did have a little bit of a complaint about the ending. I'm kind of a stickler for endings, so a good one can probably make me overpraise a movie, and a bad one can make me knock it down a notch. The ending wasn't terrible, but it was predictable and cliched after a movie that seemed pretty natural and organic.

Grade: B

Duplicity (2009)

Those who enjoyed Michael Clayton (as I very much did) will probably also enjoy director Tony Gilroy's Duplicity. It riffs on many of the same formats and ideas, including jigsaw-puzzle construction and a cynical look at corporate culture. Julia Roberts and Clive Owen are a lot of fun as a couple with a relationship we try to figure out throughout the movie. Do they love each other? Are they scheming with or against each other? They're working for rival drug companies, who have a nastiness that intentionally recalls the Cold War. Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti are great as the presidents of their respective companies. This movie is a bit of an homage to Hitchcock, Charade, and other movies of the past where the mood and sexual tension were just as important as the plotlines. The plotlines do get a bit convoluted here, but I enjoyed trying to figure everything out. The movie doesn't have any characters with the depth of George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, or Tom Wilkinson's characters in Michael Clayton, so Duplicity doesn't end up meaning as much to the viewer in the end. I like Tony Gilroy, though. I like the way he makes movies aimed at adults, not teen boys, and he makes the audience do a little work.

Grade: B+

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