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Closer (2004)
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by EricDSnider

"Sex as the cause of, and solution to, all life's problems"
5 stars

You would have to search far and wide through the annals of film history to find a more complex, miscreant group of characters than those in "Closer," an uncommonly engrossing and romantically cynical drama about two men and two women who couple, uncouple and re-couple over the course of four years.

These people are absolute messes, psychologically speaking, which I think is why I enjoy watching them so much -- partly in amazement at how self-destructive they are, and partly because their emotions and motivations seem genuinely believable. They're screwed up, but only in the way that real people are screwed up. Their dialogue is rather theatrical (the film is based on a stage play) and in that sense not 100 percent realistic, but thanks to the almost uniformly excellent performances and direction, the emotions behind the dialogue ring true. You believe the sentiment even when you don't believe the words used to express it.

The movie is directed by Mike Nichols, whose landmark film "The Graduate" showed that he knew how to use moody pop music to his advantage, and who demonstrates here that he has not lost the knack. The song is "The Blowers Daughter" by Damien Rice, and it plays as the film opens with two strangers walking in slow-motion toward each other on a busy street, catching each other's eye, a wordless connection being made. That the two people are Jude Law and Natalie Portman tells you that they are beautiful; but Law and Portman also happen to be fantastic actors, capable of drawing an audience's attention, as they do here, simply by looking at each other. And then, just to make sure you're really paying attention, one of them is hit by a taxi.

The injuries are minor, but the effect is not: One rushes to the other's aid and official introductions are made. The next thing we know, Dan and Alice (for those are their names) have been together a year, sharing a flat in London, where Dan is an obituary writer with a novel in the works and Alice is, in her own words, "on an expedition," doing the sort of European wandering that many American youths do (at least in the movies).

Their relationship is threatened by Dan's sudden interest in Anna (Julia Roberts), a photographer whom he meets in the course of his work. Alice knows Dan has hit on Anna and is hurt by it. To her credit, Anna refuses his advances, and Dan retaliates by attempting to embarrass her in an online chat. This childish prank leads to her meeting a new man, a doctor named Larry (Clive Owen). They fall in love.

These two couples have met, as you can see, under unusual circumstances, and their relationships persist only tenuously. I get the feeling sometimes they stay together only because they have such great "how we met" stories, and breaking up would ruin them. Certainly at least three of the four are particularly interested in monogamy, for soon the couples have mixed and matched in various ways with various dramatic consequences.

I have always believed that the one thing everyone in the world wants is to be happy, and that life is simply the ongoing attempt to figure out what will achieve that for them. The characters in this movie aren't even close to figuring it out. The one thing they know, if they search themselves carefully -- which they do not -- is that they don't know what they want. When Larry complains about his and Anna's apartment's bathroom, she says, "You chose it." His reply: "That doesn't mean I like it."

The one character among the four who exhibits signs of emotional stability is, ironically, the one you'd least expect it from: Alice. Played by Natalie Portman with astonishing conviction, poignancy and range, Alice's response when faced with emotional abandonment by Dan is to put up her figurative armor by taking off her literal clothes: She goes back to work as a stripper, a job she had in New York before sojourning to England. A scene set at her workplace between her and Larry is fraught with anger and sexual tension, a marvelous moment from Clive Owen and one of Portman's several brilliant scenes.

The weak link in the cast is Julia Roberts, whose performance is merely OK while the others' are superb. She is too glossy to be a complex, dichotomous woman like Anna; her "Erin Brockovich" Oscar notwithstanding, Julia Roberts simply doesn't have the depth to pull off something this complicated.

For as much sex as there is in these characters' minds and dialogue, there is no sex in the film. It all occurs offscreen, Nichols and Marber having realized that sex itself is not a very interesting thing for a movie to focus on. It's the aftermath and the beforemath (if that were a word) of sex that make for rich character drama.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11189&reviewer=247
originally posted: 12/08/04 03:27:50
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User Comments

12/28/17 morris campbell mean spirited but HONEST 4 stars
12/09/12 Simon raw, crackling acting. not so smoothly made, but replaces the singular intesity of a play 5 stars
6/25/11 brian Does love turn to hate because of lies...or because of honesty? 5 stars
5/28/11 Shaun A It's a good film, but the heart's not in it. Maybe just not my kind. 3 stars
5/22/10 Dane Youssef One of the finest photographed plays in years. All fucking scorch like Gods. 5 stars
2/06/10 art natalie portman has an exotic dancer YAWN! 1 stars
7/17/09 Lesli Lovd NP..lovd when CO railed @ JR. If uve been cheated on, you'll relate well. 5 stars
12/22/08 CTT Shallow and hypocritical, thank God for Portman's ass 2 stars
4/25/07 mb How Four Pigs With A Bit Of Charm Live 2 stars
3/30/07 David Pollastrini Natalie Portman is hot in this! 2 stars
2/27/07 Keystra Williams Portman and Owen rule. Roberts and Law SUCK. 4 stars
2/18/07 Nick Maday I know Cate Blanchett was good, but I was rooting for Natalie Portman. Loved this movie. 4 stars
2/13/07 Bitchflaps Really quite shit, Law and Portman are vacuous, Roberts asinine, Owen irritating as fuck. 1 stars
10/21/06 Trevor Cathartic 5 stars
10/09/06 Bruce The film had an intrigue to it that makes you want to look deeper 4 stars
7/16/06 Marty character interaction was amazing. owen rocked, roberts was the weakest 4 stars
5/09/06 omar pretty good. i just like the song 4 stars
3/10/06 Tanya enjoyable 4 stars
12/15/05 Christina Silva Closer is the greatest most honest movie i have ever seen. It is so accurate. 5 stars
12/12/05 millersxing What posturing! Oversexed, understated, uber-chic, nauseating "relationship" drama. 3 stars
11/27/05 Cedric Oh, that lucky thong that gets to floss Natalie's dooky ditch! 4 stars
10/21/05 rebecca Vacuous piece of nonsense 1 stars
10/20/05 Uche I think it is a good movioe but I really don't understand the end. 5 stars
9/13/05 ray mero For me, this is a perfect date movie...after which a nicely amused and hooting fuck. 4 stars
8/10/05 ES How to commit adultry badly, I found sympathy for none of them, waste of money 1 stars
7/31/05 TheOthersFan Alice/Jane puts it most succinctly: "A bunch of sad strangers photographed beautifully." 3 stars
6/21/05 The Lurchprong Splitter Good acting from Portman, Law, and Owen, but arrogant Julia R just shitting on her laurels! 3 stars
6/14/05 Blanche Pope pretentious rubbish! 1 stars
6/02/05 Indrid Cold A fascinating look at love, lust, betrayal and lies in 21st century relationships. 5 stars
6/01/05 malcolm i had a portman 2xfeature with "Phantom Menace." should've got "The Professional" instead. 4 stars
5/01/05 dfa hello stranger! 3 stars
4/25/05 E-FUNK Clive Owen verbally berrates Julia Roberts. Worth every second of your time. 4 stars
4/19/05 Nicole Baugh Natalie Portman broke my heart in this movie. 4 stars
4/19/05 Elizaveta people do messed up shit to each other in the name of love. 4 stars
4/17/05 Calandria Dexter I thought this movie was fantastic! Wonderful twists! Love can be hard! 5 stars
4/15/05 Carol Conway It was okay 3 stars
4/10/05 Monday Morning Mike Nichols lost a lot of cred with this one. A huge disappointment except for JL and NP. 2 stars
4/10/05 Phil M. Aficionado Nicely made film about the kind of relationships that don't happen 'cuz they make no sense. 3 stars
4/06/05 Roderick Cromar Where I live, people simply don't behave like this. 2 stars
4/06/05 clatz Clive Owen should only play Pinocchio he is that wooden!! Portman is the only thing worhtw 1 stars
4/05/05 Ethan Clive Owen was amazing, good film 4 stars
4/02/05 Eric hardcore satire with characters who have no filter on what they think out loud 4 stars
3/13/05 Daveman A sober, resounding testament to the irrevokable consequences of infidelity... remarkable. 4 stars
3/12/05 Jim Totally engagaing end to end. Clive Owen - wow! 5 stars
2/20/05 fiona HOW BORING! It's Dawsons Creek for 30 somethings. Yaaaawn. 1 stars
2/19/05 abhster Clive Owen makes this movie. What a terrific role, although it's a lead, not supporting 5 stars
2/14/05 Why are fish therapeutic? Fish are not as therapeutic as Natalie Portman's crapper-flappers! 3 stars
2/13/05 H.P. Lovecraft Clive owen rules. Natalie portman too. 5 stars
2/05/05 xxplosive Natalie Portman makes this film worth seeing, she is outstanding throughout. 4 stars
2/05/05 John Bale Theatrical thesis on rampant infidelity, fine direction & acting. Natalie is riveting. 5 stars
2/01/05 lisa w definitely adult themed movie, which had a much different approach to relationships 4 stars
2/01/05 Weeez This film makes you address the darker side of relationships, and consequences. 4 stars
1/31/05 kaz cold as ice..no intimacy at all.. 1 stars
1/31/05 Alison Mosbeck I felt that this film was very well-made, but I was not crazy about the themes it presented 4 stars
1/29/05 Gretchen Lowe Natalie Portman is hot 5 stars
1/29/05 Wendy strange 4 stars
1/29/05 Lisa Clarizio Up there with Lost in Translation as one of the best movies where nothing happens 5 stars
1/28/05 petrushka Beautiful and cruel, fascinating. Portman & Owen shine in this adult look at relationships. 5 stars
1/27/05 Bert Rito Vote #1 Clive Owen for Bond! He was brilliant, as was Portman. Roberts looks like a horse. 4 stars
1/27/05 Roz I loved this movie. A fascinating adult look at truth, lies, fantasy and deception. 5 stars
1/24/05 michael shulman excellent script and excellent acting 4 stars
1/23/05 JDAWG This movie was horrible. "I love u, no, now I love u, but I'm gonna sleep with someone" 1 stars
1/17/05 Victor Amazin 5 stars
1/12/05 Pamela thought provoking 5 stars
1/08/05 aeon i liked it. It made me feel lessl ike a freak because i ask questions like that too.... 5 stars
1/02/05 The Mockingbird That's some honesty right there. I love Portman more than ever, and my my my Clive Owen 5 stars
1/02/05 Movie Lover waste of time. waste of Money. 1 stars
12/30/04 I.S> Worst piece of crap I've seen in years! 1 stars
12/27/04 Lynn disturbing. ruthless. absolutely loved it. 4 stars
12/26/04 Steve Nothing in this movie made me care about what happens. 2 stars
12/23/04 Gilly Concarne execrable 1 stars
12/21/04 carleton fine film , interesting everything 5 stars
12/20/04 Randy 2 excrutiating hours of witnessing 4 miserable, self-absorbed, uninteresting people 1 stars
12/18/04 Kyle Wonderful movie. 5 stars
12/18/04 jcjs wow, humdinger, tough stuff 5 stars
12/14/04 ZF an effective semi-wrenching film about people manipulating each other emotionally 4 stars
12/14/04 Elizabeth Interesting. The dialogue is too "written", though the CONTENT is believable. 3 stars
12/13/04 dbx If you're going to be pretentious, at least be good at it. 1 stars
12/12/04 Lucas Stensland Worse movie I've seen this year 1 stars
12/12/04 Nicole Depressing - shows just how shitty people can treat each other 4 stars
12/11/04 Eric a bit of a downer, but great character development & shows that love/hate is very complex 4 stars
12/11/04 estherben good 4 stars
12/11/04 Dianne I appreciated it, but would be hard-pressed to say I liked it. 4 stars
12/10/04 Maureen I walked out. I was not prepared for the vulgarness. I am not a prude but after 1 hr. of it 1 stars
12/10/04 Suzz so-so acting; terrible screenplay;a 'message' only a 20/30 something could find revelatory 2 stars
12/09/04 I I 1 stars
12/07/04 Dirt Whore beautiful...I want to eat Natalie's ass 5 stars
12/05/04 Gary Not bad......Portman is hotter then ever! Good acting; poor script! 3 stars
12/05/04 Jimmy Kustes For a mainstream movie it had a very indie feel 4 stars
12/04/04 Donna I 4 stars
12/04/04 Kristina Williams I want Natalie to give me a pole lesson...PRONTO. 5 stars
12/04/04 Monica I couldn't appreciate this film. It was too filthy I had to remove myself from the theater 2 stars
12/01/04 Ratana Predicable, simular to other movies. 3 stars
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  03-Dec-2004 (R)
  DVD: 29-Mar-2005



Directed by
  Mike Nichols

Written by
  Patrick Marber

  Natalie Portman
  Julia Roberts
  Jude Law
  Clive Owen

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