Archive | April 5, 2009

Duplex Perplexity

I saw Duplicity, which I thought was a lot of fun. Clive Owen strikes me as being much better suited to playing James Bond – I mean the James Bond of the books – than anyone who’s actually played him. And for what it’s worth, based on her performance in this film Julia Roberts now strikes me as a viable albeit imperfect Dagny Taggart.

DuplicityThe movie also has a terrific theme song: Being Bad by bitter:sweet.

But what’s up with the reviews of that movie? I’ve seen review after review moaning not just that the plot is complicated (which it is) but that it’s a hopeless incomprehensible tangle (which it isn’t).

This review, which calls the film “inscrutable” and “too confusing for its own good,” is typical – as is this one, which calls the film “stylish but muddled,” and complains: [MILD SPOILER follows:]

the movie never does reveal, at least not with enough precision to be truly satisfying, just what Claire and Ray’s prefab conversation (which will recur at intervals throughout the movie) is all about.

Um … yes it does. It’s explained completely. Were we watching the same movie? The third enactment of the conversation contains an explicit backward reference to the second one and an explicit forward reference to the first – spelling it out loud and clear for the audience just in case there could be any doubt. [SPOILER OVER]

Admittedly the movie cuts forward and backward in time, and we often don’t fully understand what was really going on in one scene until we see a later (i.e. later for us, but earlier in internal chronology) scene. But this is not exactly some bewilderingly innovative postmodern narrative technique, and it’s a bit odd to be thrown by it. By the end of the movie there are no major puzzles left unexplained – at least to audiences that were paying attention.

But the reviews that complain about the movie being bewildering aren’t the most bewildering reviews. That prize would have to go to this one: [SERIOUS SPOILER follows – and I mean SERIOUS, as in IF YOU’RE PLANNING TO SEE THE MOVIE, STOP READING NOW:]

It’s pretty people versus ugly people. Guess who wins? … the movie boils down to this rudimentary formula: morality and success are functions of beauty.

Here I have to ask once again, in a still more incredulous tone: Were we watching the same movie? You can debate about who wins the morality points in the movie – it’s not obvious that anyone does, really – but success? The pretty people lose. That’s what that whole scene was about at the end, you know, with the two pretty people sitting there looking all depressed? Remember the end? You did stay for the whole movie, right? [SECOND SPOILER OVER]

Okay, rant over.

In the Footnotes

Often topics arise in the comments sections that are only tangentially related to the original post. In case you missed these:

My post on cultural literacy has generated a debate on feminism; my post on W’a L’ma R’t has generated two pages of debate on left-libertarianism (I’ll try to answer some more of the comments tomorrow); and the L & P version of my post on the Atlas Shrugged movie has provoked a whole new post there by William Marina on Rand’s awful awfulness.

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