Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen star in the unique character study "Closer," about four people who are forced to deal with the complications of love, loyalty and sex. For Roberts and Portman especially, "Closer" is definitely a large step past the darker films of their career.
Law is Dan, a struggling writer who one day meets Alice (Portman), an ex-stripper looking for a new start in London. A relationship ensues, but Dan soon becomes intrigued by photographer Anna (Roberts). Anna, meanwhile, meets dermatologist Larry (Owen) and they get married, but the lust between Dan and Anna turns to something more. Within a matter of moments, two seemingly happy relationships have been turned upside down, and that is only the beginning of what these people will do to fulfill their own happiness, whether it be simple betrayal or sexual revenge.
If you're uncomfortable with the thought of Julia Roberts saying stuff like "His cum was like yours, only sweeter," than this movie probably isn't for you. "Closer" examines what really makes relationships work - or, to be more exact, what makes them not work. The result is almost a constant barrage of gritty sexual dialogue. None of the characters are especially moral, but then again, this is definitely not a film about morality. In many ways, it purposely takes morality out to see why relationships fall apart and why people get back together even if their significant other cheats on them or hurts them.
Furthermore, what's interesting about the film is that people will probably come out of the movie liking certain characters better than others. I felt for Portman's character the most and Roberts' character the least; one was the victim, the other the perpetrator. Surprisingly, I felt for both the men, even though both do some pretty bad things. Surely, some people will relate with Roberts' character the way I didn't.
In the end, some will like it and others will not. Technically, the movie is very character driven; the scenes are long and dialogue-heavy; director Mike Nichols ("The Graduate") has long stretches where there is no music playing. He uses occasional flashbacks near the end that aren't as effective as they could have been, mainly because he doesn't use them earlier in the movie. More than anything else, much of the action is never seen; Nichols relies on Patrick Marber's script to indicate that a year has passed since the last scene. Despite the gritty dialogue, there is no sex on screen.
"Closer" falls a little short from being an Oscar contender. It is good, maybe even pretty good, but not great. The acting is terrific, but not especially powerful; if anyone, Owen, who played Law's character in the original stage production, is the best. The screenplay could have a chance, but the harsh and sexual dialogue might be a turnoff to some voters.
"Closer" comes close, but never completely hits it out of the ball park.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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