Deception is an example of a hyper-talented cast saving — seriously saving — some so-so material. The script isn't bad, per se, it's just sort of generic, sometimes draggy and includes some absurdly trite dialogue. And yet, I bought into it and left feeling like I'd been treated to some great performances. The direction is often striking, though sometimes the strike feels like blunt trauma (we get it, the character feels alienated in New York City, etc. etc.), though it's mainly the actors who make you care about this story.
Ewan McGregor plays Jonathan McQuarry, a quiet and reclusive accountant who lives for the solid security of order and numbers — at the expense of having any kind of social life. I have to say, I appreciate that this is established within the first few minutes, in the way we first find Jonathan in silent isolation, working in a skyscraper with huge glass windows that overlook an exciting city that doesn't include him. Swiftly, we’re introduced to the dashing, gregarious Wyatt Bose (Hugh Jackman) who immediately becomes Jonathan's best buddy, taking him out to strip clubs, playing tennis and eventually involving Jonathan in a high-class sex club. People on "The List" of this club are the most elite of New York’s high-powered executives, people who have no time for dating and just want to get laid. It’s a nice arrangement: no names, no questions asked, no strings — usually. To see what happens with this seemingly ideal situation,
When Jonathan falls in love with one of the members of the club (Michelle Williams), who he knows only as "S", he decides he wants more just as he discovers that S has been kidnapped. Wyatt, too, has disappeared, just when Jonathan's questions are multiplying. Jonathan hunts Wyatt down, only to find himself in a worse position as the time is ticking on S’s life. All of this successfully builds up some great tension until about three-quarters of the way into the movie when there's a climax. But then there's another 20 minutes or so that draaaaag out before the final big twist, by which point we're kind of anxious to go home.
But again, the actors make this film worthwhile. Ewan McGregor manages to be utterly sympathetic while never crossing over into playing some kind of cartoony interpretation of what a bumbling, overly polite accountant with few social skills might look like. McGregor always seems to have such affection and warmth toward the characters he takes on, and this role is no exception. Jackman's character ultimately fizzles down into a two-dimensional, mustache-twisting evildoer, but it's not really Jackman's fault and he puts an admirable amount of energy into the performance.
As for Michelle Williams, I've often thought she's pretty but in this movie she is staggeringly beautiful. The camera loves her, clearly, and though her part is minor in comparison to the other two, it's like there's nobody else onscreen when she’s there. That's the thing about Deception — the people make the movie worth watching, though it’s not the best thing you’ll ever see.
To see the trailer and video clips from Deception, check out movies.ivillage.com.
Photos courtesy of 20th Century Fox