Film Reviews

CLOSER

By • Dec 3rd, 2004 •

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R-Rated / 100 minutes

QUOTE: Beautiful people’s selfish sex lives, tears, and glossy infidelity. Owen and Law weep for Roberts.

The four characters in CLOSER all spout platitudes as if they are acting in a stage play. Patrick Marber wrote the screenplay based on his 1997 London stage hit. No one talks normally or says anything sounding remotely real. They are all acting in the play, but this time it’s directed by Mike Nichols and there are close-ups. When a playwright writes the screenplay, he sees his words as sacred text.

Stage plays do not necessarily translate well to film. It is a different kind of beast. The pacing is different. The language has another tempo.

You’ll hear what I mean.

The pedigree is in place: Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, and Clive Owen. What a beautiful cast! Now add Mike Nichols, a 73 year-old iconic director. Give them a play about lying and cheating. Add lots of weeping so the selfish characters have a flaw – they are weak crybabies.

I kept wondering if, in Marber’s play, everyone told Anna (Roberts) she was gorgeous and a goddess, or, is it a mandatory clause in a major female movie star’s contract?

Dan (Jude Law) writes obituaries for a London newspaper. While walking to work, he rescues Alice (Natalie Portman), who has just gotten hit by a taxi. He takes Alice, a stripper running away from a lover in New York, to a hospital. Flash forward a few years: Dan is having his book jacket photo taken by beautiful Anna. He immediately falls madly in love with her. His first novel, about Alice, will soon be published. Alice, wildly insecure about Dan’s love for her, confronts Anna at this first meeting. Anna denies flirting with Dan, but agrees to take Alice’s photo. A year later, the photo will turn up in Anna’s exhibition.

Dan decides to go on an internet sex chat room as Anna and sets up a meeting between her and some horny dude who turns out to be Larry (Clive Owen), a dermatologist. They have raunchy, instant text-messaging sex. Dan gets Larry off. Larry goes to meet Anna at her favorite haunt, an aquarium. They begin an affair because she is so beautiful, and they marry.

But Dan wants Anna for himself. He stalks her and they begin an affair. Anna tells Larry about the affair and she cries. Dan tells Alice he is in love with Anna and he cries. Alice cries. Dan and Anna begin to live together. Larry cries and can’t live without Anna. She is a living goddess. Larry begs her to come back to him. Larry is so miserable that he wanders into a strip club and finds Alice working there. Larry, once again, gets raunchy. Then Anna has sex with Larry so he will sign the divorce papers. She tells Dan. He starts to cry.

I kept waiting for someone to utter Woody Allen’s infamous declaration: “The heart wants what the heart wants.”

What Larry and Dan want to know comes down to is this: Anna, who gave you the better orgasm? Who has the bigger penis?

Larry and Dan were one scene away from having sex with each other. Wasn’t it creepy for Dan to be on a chat room pretending to be a horny, freaky woman? I asked my husband: would you ever do that?

CLOSER is about glossy infidelity. The message is clear: beautiful people are entitled to do whatever they want. There are no consequences.

Owen has the more demanding, complex part. He knows it and works every scene to his advantage. But then he has to loosen his tie, beg and weep. You would think he would be outshone by the dazzling beauty of Law, but Nichols clearly favors Owen. Law needs a director who sexually appreciates him; otherwise, he comes across as feminine, small-boned, and cute. Nichols likes Larry’s dirty talk and sexual brutality, but Anna prefers Dan because he is “gentler.” Roberts, who has the ethereal market all to herself, at least has chosen a mature role. but she is emotionally distant, even when her eyes get watery and her close-ups get dewy.


Credits:
Director: Mike Nichols
Screenwriter: Patrick Marber
Based on the play by: Patrick Marber
Producers: Mike Nichols, John Calley, Cary Brokaw
Executive producers: Scott Rudin, Celia Costas, Robert Fox
Director of photography: Stephen Goldblatt
Production designer: Tim Hatley
Co-producer: Michael Haley
Costumes: Ann Roth
Editors: John Bloom, Antonia Van Drimmelen

Cast:
Anna: Julia Roberts
Dan: Jude Law
Alice: Natalie Portman
Larry: Clive Owen

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