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12 reviews, 95 user ratings

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Closer (2004)
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by billypilgrimnz

"Dynamite sexual drama, with no sex."
4 stars

An acrid collection of meetings and departures, evidence for the theory that, indeed, love is war. Except, there’s not a hell of a lot of love on show here; it is more sex is war, love merely accompanying propaganda.

Still, claims that this is supposed to be some grand indictment of what it means to be part of a relationship is somewhat far-fetched; the characters involved here are too closely tethered to the grand design of the screenplay that they never, ever come across as real people. Sure, humans, (and their decision making) are messy and flawed, but all those little decisions we have to make to get from one day to another tend to be compounding and orientated in the same general direction. CLOSER removes all the everyday stuff (including the sex, the affection, who’s going to buy the milk), and instead focuses on beginnings and endings; the trade off is that the characters seem to spin on dimes for no real reason, making them seem artificial plot generators. (Portman suffers the worst example of this, in the final scene).

This, however, does not mean CLOSER is a bad film. Far from it, in fact. The film manages to overcome the jaggedness of the script, and all that artificiality, to become a seething, powerful howl at the suffocating nature of insecurity; the way that our desperate need to feel validated and special can often dissolve away the valid and special things around us. We are, I think, an inherently self-destructive species, and this film manages to clearly demonstrate just how nasty and vindictive we can be, even if it is at our own expense. It could be termed a misanthropic vision of society, but labeling it as such conveniently ignores the fact that versions of this movie (if not exactly THIS MOVIE) take place all the time. Humanity comes in many different styles, of varying palatability.

Being basically a series of simply shot scenes involving a combination of two out of four characters, a lot of the film’s success relies on the actors. (Nichols wisely stays out of the way of the seething rage on show. He does nothing fancy, nothing cute; his job is merely to get the best out of the actors. His only real piece of showmanship is the slow-motion opening and closing of the film, which actually works nicely as woozy bookends). There the suspicion that, in attempting to strip away artifice to reveal our inner human beast, the film-makers have had to add an additional layer of artifice as compensation; the casting of beautiful, attractive leads. One could argue that having Law, Owen, Portman and Roberts lends more weight to the ultimate revelation of the immature, insecure egos at play, but I would like to think that a film with real stones wouldn’t need to pander to grade school lessons in feeling good about yourself (“Wow, even the cheerleader thinks she has fat calves”). One wonders how well-received the film would be if it were cast with a quartet of lesser known, workaday actors – I suspect it may have gone the way of THE SHAPE OF THINGS, another powerful, if flawed, soapbox thesis on people fucking people. That film, despite the sterling work of Paul Rudd and Rachel Weisz, was criticized for being overtly cruel and dogmatic, yet CLOSER has gotten more of a pass on the exact same things, if not exactly universal acclaim.

Of course, this is just a side note, as the whys and wherefores of casting can often rest on the whims of investment and whether a film will play in Bobsville, or wherever. As it turns out, the actors turn in decent performances in roles that they weren’t necessarily born to play. Apart from Portman, who has played the sultry, stream-of-consciousness waif before (BEAUTIFUL GIRLS), the others are exploring new territory. Roberts, who has built her entire career out of being a confident, optimistic kook of sorts, is Anna, a weak, indecisive shadow of a woman, who bounces back and forth between Dan (Law) and Larry (Owen). Anna may well be the character that’s treated the harshest, in that she never really gets a chance to demonstrate any assertiveness, and is thus portrayed as someone to be manipulated and used. To Roberts’ credit, she doesn’t allow this careless treatment of her character to leech all the color from her; she still finds ways to humanize Anna through casually dispensed smiles and flashing eyes (particularly in her initial meeting with Larry), and manages to delve into reserves of bitter resentment that actually contain bite (again, this is best demonstrated in a scene with Larry, this time the break up). I’m not sure Roberts was the best choice for the role, as there is something about her manufactured celebrity that bristles against what the film wants to achieve (it’s tough to describe, but compare Roberts’ describing the taste of Dan with Cameron Diaz’s infamous line in VANILLA SKY: with Diaz, the line – despite its forthright ridiculousness - at least seems to follow from the character, whereas a decade procession of Julia Roberts product means that the same cold-water line in CLOSER unfortunately brings reflections on the actor saying it, rather than what it means to the movie).

Jude Law is the other actor who plays against type; in almost all his roles thus far, he has conveyed a confident, almost lazy, belief in his own physicality, a guy at ease with his attractiveness and well-versed in how to use it (best demonstrated, obviously, in THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY and AI, but it also slips into his more low key roles, like EXISTENZ and ENEMY AT THE GATES). Here, though, he pretty much plays a insufferable wimp, who attracts women with his appearance and earnest nature, but who has no way of stopping others from walking all over him. It’s an interesting casting ploy, and it mostly works, though I couldn’t quite buy his crying scene; as an actor, Law doesn’t really carry much of a sense of vulnerability, and it is especially apparent here. Still, he plays weedy and whiny well enough, and he provides a neat counter-point to the real star of the show, Clive Owen. Here, Owen bursts out of the fog of inscrutability that has marked many of his past roles (he’s not a particularly warm actor, but he can command a scene nonetheless, even when lying in a meadow bleeding to death in THE BOURNE IDENTITY) and throws his character’s keenly felt sense of entitlement, lust and revenge right up front for us all to see. His first meeting with Alice in the gallery is a prime example, the way he makes no effort to reign in his wandering eyes, to temper his flirting – this is a guy who just wants to get laid and get revenge, and all the better if the two things coincide. Two birds, and all that.

It’s no surprise that the films strongest scenes all involve Owen, as he’s the bitter heart of the entire enterprise, the cancerous Casanova. And Owen plays it to the hilt, letting the dialogue fly out of him like blunt objects, dragging his co-stars into mini-epics of one-on- one showmanship. Portman plays off him best, her calculated vacuity able to needle Larry the way that the more forthright honesty of Anna and Dan can’t. Larry needs to see his attacks take hold immediately; Portman – who is a strange actress, capable of both affecting, human performances (LEON, BEAUTIFUL GIRLS) and atrociously wooden ones as well (guess) – mixes just the right amount of confident goofiness and porcelain fragility lets his words bounce off her bemused grin. This contrasts with the films single strongest scene, the Larry and Anna break-up scene, where Anna is mercilessly provoked into giving Larry the moral high-ground and everything he wants to hear.

In all, it’s a strange film to contend with, trading in neither reality nor fantasy, but rather bludgeoning a turbo-charged path of its own. The dialogue is keen and charged with bitterness, and it is enough to drag us in like any good, immediate drama.

That it is able to show us a little bit of ourselves is an added bonus.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11189&reviewer=397
originally posted: 02/18/05 04:34:46
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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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