Prior to the release of "Duplicity," award watchers had to wonder if Julia Roberts suffered from the Oscar Curse. You know, win an Oscar, then disappear — at least from significance. (We're talking about you, Helen Hunt and Cuba Gooding Jr.) The Academy Award champ for "Erin Brockovich" hasn't made many movies of importance in recent years. "Charlie Wilson's War" and "The Closer" showed great early awards promise but fizzled at the Oscars, making us wonder if Julia Roberts was burning out as superstar.
"Duplicity" looks like a comeback of sorts for Julia Roberts. It's a box-office hit getting mixed to terrific reviews, making us wonder next: Is this just a throwaway thriller that won't matter much on the kudos scene (like the "Bourne" flicks, which "Duplicity" scribe Tony Gilroy penned) or one of the rare gems of that genre that succeed at the Oscars and Golden Globes (like "Michael Clayton," which Gilroy also wrote and directed)?
The answer seems to be somewhere in between, which probably means it may register with Golden Globe voters but probably not academy members. At least not in the top categories. It may have Oscar hope in the tech slots considering its cinematographer is Robert Elswit (Oscar champ, "There Will Be Blood") and music score by James Newton Howard (no wins but nine nominations, including "Michael Clayton").
Entertainment Weekly gives the movie a "B" grade but adds this lament: "'Duplicity' doesn't have depth."
The L.A. Times describes "Duplicity" as "sleek, dizzying entertainment," calling this screen tale of competing spies (Roberts and Clive Owen) toying with each other romantically "essentially 'Michael Clayton Lite.' "
The New York Times says, " 'Duplicity' is superior entertainment, the most elegantly pleasurable movie of its kind to come around in a very long time. ... It's a sharp, sexy comedy masquerading as a twisty tale of intrigue, and vice versa."
The Golden Globes do love Julia Roberts. Assuming "Duplicity" is entered in the comedy/musical categories, she has a good shot at a nomination, and the movie and Clive Owen may nab top bids too considering those award slots are usually less crowded than the drama categories.
Roberts has been nominated on six occasions at the Globes and won 50% of the time. Her three victories: "Erin Brockovich" (best drama actress, 2000), "Pretty Woman" (best comedy/musical actress, 1990) and "Steel Magnolias" (best supporting actress, 1989).
Her three losses: "Charlie Wilson's War" (best supporting actress, 2007), "Notting Hill" (best musical/comedy actress, 1999) and "My Best Friend's Wedding" (best comedy/musical actress, 1997).
Photo: Universal Pictures