With a Friend Like Wyatt...
Deception may be flawed, but brilliant performances by Hugh Jackman, Ewan McGregor and Michelle Williams held me spellbound throughout this predictable romantic thriller. These talented actors bring their intriguing characters to life, and I couldn’t help going along for the ride.
Yes, like most of the audience, I knew the charming Wyatt Bose (Jackman) had something more up his sleeve than simply befriending Jonathan McQuarrie (McGregor), a nerdy Wall Street accountant. And I immediately harbored suspicions about “S” (Williams), a mysterious beauty Jonathan falls for. Still, the interactions among these characters fascinated me.
It’s a treat to watch Jackman’s "Wyatt" change from Jonathan’s suave, sophisticated new friend into his deadliest enemy. Granted, I almost always enjoy Jackman (the exception? Van Helsing), but we seldom get the chance to see him play a villain. In Deception, he pulls out all the stops to deliver an awesome Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde-type turn. At the beginning of the film, he’s dressed and coiffed in GQ glory -- and his sparkly white teeth would surely glow in the dark. Perhaps more importantly, Wyatt knows just what to say to draw Jonathan out of his shell, for his own nefarious purposes, of course. Later, Jackman adopts a more sinister voice and mannerisms that transform his character into Wyatt’s true self.
Playing Wyatt’s victim, McGregor (Down with Love) wins us over by projecting a sense of loneliness so strong it seems to seep through the screen and surround us. “Be careful,” we want to shout at Jonathan as he starts getting close to Wyatt, especially when he accepts an offer to participate in a secret sex club Wyatt belongs to. McGregor manages to convince us of Jonathan’s almost unbearable longing for “S,” one of the women on the sex-club list. Jonathan wants to know her real name, but that would break “the rules.” Unfortunately, he doesn’t care, for he’s obsessed with “S” in much the same way James Stewart’s character felt about the woman portrayed by Kim Novak in Vertigo.
Williams (Brokeback Mountain) never looked lovelier. She endows “S” with sensuality and vulnerability, making it easy to see why Jonathan would fall in love with her. She also succeeds in keeping us wondering about her character’s true feelings until the end of the movie.
Plot and action definitely take a back seat to the acting in Deception. Extreme suspension of disbelief is a must when shootings in broad daylight appear to go unnoticed -- or when certain official documents are presented at a moment’s notice. Plus the camera lingers too long on various scenes, and a few sex sequences border on porn.
Still, this movie never fails to take full advantage of its wonderful lead actors. As a result, Deception ends up as a splendid illustration of how acting skill can sometimes overcome a number of cinematic sins.
(Released by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and rated “R” for sexual content, language, brief violence and some drug use.)