Saturday, December 04, 2004

Movie Review: Closer

United States, 2004
U.S. Release Date: 12/3/04 (wide)
Running Time: 1:40
Rated: R (Profanity, sexual situations, nudity)
Cast: Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Julia Roberts, Clive Owen

Director: Mike Nichols
Producers: Cary Brokaw, John Calley, Robert Fox, Mike Nichols, Scott Rudin
Screenplay: Patrick Marber, based on his play
Studio: Columbia Pictures

Posted by Hello
With Closer being such an intelligent and sophisticated motion-picture, one would think that an age-old adage of some sort could sum it up best; on the other hand, the title of an 80’s glam rock Pat Benatar song seems to suit better: "Love is a battlefield". In this film, four ruthless warriors discover that love not only hurts, but it also destroys the very fabric of the human heart. Closer may be considered a war-zone of modern romance, but it’s far more honest, clever, and poetic than any other genre-bending tale featuring both the brutalities and commonalties of sex and love.

Closer begins with two strangers walking towards each other in slow-motion. The unfamiliar man and woman exchange glances of interest and coy smiles; then unexpectedly, the woman is struck by a passing car. She passes out for a few moments and then regains consciousness to find herself starring back into the same handsome man’s eyes. She says, “Hello stranger”, and from that point on, the two form a relationship.

The man introduces himself as Dan (Jude Law), a journalist of the least respectable status (a.k.a. an obituary writer). Dan soon adores Alice (Natalie Portman), the stripper/waitress, and feels both smitten by her charm and struck with serendipity. Over time, Dan and Alice develop a lasting love for each other, which inspires Dan to write a novel based on her life. However, Dan's love for Alice does not last for long.

While at a photo-shoot for his book, Dan meets Anna (Julia Roberts) a quiet, yet sexy photographer. Dan becomes obsessed over Anna to the point where he jokingly pretends to be her in an Internet chat room—telling a doctor, among other things, to meet her at the aquarium. Unfortunately for Dan, his practical joke backfires; when the horny doctor Larry (Clive Owen) and the gorgeous photographer Anna meet, they hit it off, and wind up getting married.

The remainder of the picture is full of flip-flopping between couples—watching them fall in and out of love with each other. The characters are obviously unsure of what they want. Their emotions overcome them, and by outwardly hurting others, they in turn demean themselves. Closer becomes a twisted tale of obsession, manipulation, lies, and truth that snowballs upon itself until all four sides of the love rectangle end up as equally broken-hearted and used as the others.

While sex can be a God-given gift that is devoted, passionate, and sensual, it can also be a deceitful tool and a forlorn monster that reeks of anguish and revenge. With Closer, the four main characters intertwine and share in their own infidelities—causing nothing but additional angst for their rival partners.

Surely, critics reviewing this picture will exercise the words provocative, seductive, and sexual, to describe it in general, but I find it entirely respectable that a film like this can garner such stifling adjectives from so many, and yet not contain one scene of steamy passion or indiscreet nudity. Closer avoids all of the physical images of sex, but it covers the politics and emotions that arise from it at length.

Without a doubt, the picture’s dominant strength is its phenomenal dialogue. The one mechanism that makes Closer, closer to perfect than not, is perhaps the fact that the picture trusts its foursome of intelligent characters and lets the perverted verbiage roll right off of their sumptuous lips. In particular, both the simultaneous sequence of Dan breaking up with Alice and Larry losing Anna, which ends with, “He tastes just like you, but sweeter”, and Dan’s reference of lying as the currency of the world, both show how a sultry script can really flavor a motion-picture to the quality of fine.

Also contributing in making Closer a fine film is the nominee-worthy acting from four good-looking thespians. Clive Owen – the least illustrious of the four names in America – easily dishes out his greatest work and is by far the star of the show. His role as Larry will most surely earn at least a nomination come January. As for the other three, Portman certainly proves that she is in fact a mature and well-developed actress, while Law and Roberts actually appear the most lackadaisical of the foursome. However, in comparison to other acting efforts this year, both “The Sexiest Man Alive” and the former “Pretty Woman” are still titillating.

All things considered, with its superb sexual style supported by its intriguing discourse and its fitting soundtrack featuring Damien Rice’s smooth song, “The Blower’s Daughter” (during both the film’s opening and closing), Closer is an enticing film that is worth every cent of your ticket fee. And, even though it may come off as a tad stagy and scripted at points, it is still a rare adult romance that should be considered a true gift of voluptuous verve. Closer is a film that comes close to being without flaw, and particularly it is a film that I fancy from top to bottom. (***1/2 out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2004