It is delightful to see Clive Owen in anything, and here he is utterly winning, charming and wonderful. Praise the Gods of Cinema that because of the likes of him we can still claim to have some old fashioned movie star power in these vulgar and devalued days. He looks like a million bucks, but he also acts like it.
Julia Roberts does a lot with very little, and it is almost disorienting to see a movie star of her caliber, instead of looking more botoxed and plastified, looking normal, and real, with a regular woman's arms (that is, not weapons of kabbalistic mass destruction like Madonna's) and some well earned, lovely wrinkles around the eyes. Good for her. Now if only she relaxed a bit and had some fun, she could truly do wonders.
The movie bites off more than it can chew. I like the idea of a pair of spies trying to game a pair of horrid corporations and being spies, not really knowing how to trust and love. It's a spy caper/romantic comedy and it does sustain an interesting tone of bemused skepticism about love,. This is probably the most hard-hearted romantic comedy ever (except perhaps for The Lady Eve. Roberts' character is called Stanwyck for a reason), which is fine by me. But, because of the frantic cat and mousing, it never really gets to delve into why these two people are in love. We are supposed to believe that spending three full days shagging in a luxury suite in Rome is enough to bring these two mercenaries to love. But there's the rub, love doesn't seem to stand a chance to greed, and the way the movie is written, it never really does. So one settles for the joys of watching two huge movie stars do what they do best.
Another joy is watching the character actors act up a storm in very little time, and nailing it. All praise be to the fabulous Paul Giamatti. What a thrill to finally see him playing a winner, a shark, an Alpha Male. Look at his wonderful impersonation of a smug, arrogant, competitive captain of industry. He just oozes slime. He has a field day, and he is tons of fun to watch.
Carrie Preston does marvels with a mousy travel agent that falls for the charms of Clive Owen. Her five minutes onscreen warrant a nomination, as far as I'm concerned. Who would not totally keel over the attentions of this man? The way he gets mock-excited over her apple-tini is priceless. She falls for it, but with a palpable mixture of bewilderment, trepidation and then total delight and even defiance. Her scene with Julia Roberts is the best in the movie.
The movie is full of wonderfully directed details and punchy dialogue by Tony Gilroy, who should be commended for bringing some urgently needed brains and style to Hollywood, but it is also a very uneven film and slightly exhausting. Some characters are written with great detail, others are totally one-dimensional. Excellent character actors like Tom Wilkinson, Denis O'Hare and Kathleen Chalfant are left to breathe life to stick figures.
I love a movie that makes fun of corporations and marketing, and I wish there had been more biting satire (my favorite detail, the tagline of a corporation: "A Part of Your Life Since 1867"), but again, with a plot so convoluted there was no time to stop and smell the vitriol, which is a shame.
The bittersweet ending is very nice, almost Wilderesque, which is a huge compliment. In Billy Wilder's days, even with silly plots like Some Like It Hot (the greatest romantic comedy ever), there was time to hone in on character, which is why one cares deeply about Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis running around in drag for two hours.
I'm sure guys will get a kick out of the twists and turns of the plot. Us girls probably prefer a little more foreplay, more teasing, more seduction, and less complication.
But more of Clive Owen, always.