on September 7, 2007
This movie is RAW. If you want a feel good, bubble gum and lollipops type of movie, this is not for you.
This is one of the BEST character studies I have seen in a long time. It's ugly, it's raw, but it's REAL and that could be why some felt so ill at ease. To like this movie is to accept that people really are this selfish and ugly-hearted. This could very well happen and that's what turns your stomach.
By far, Clive Owen owns this movie! You are disgusted by him from beginning to end, but find yourself rooting for him on several occasions, then mad at yourself that you are doing so. But then when you look at the alternative for Anna (Julia Roberts) in Dan (Jude Law), you allow yourself the moral misstep. Dan is quietly selfish and insecure. You realize early on there's an invisible bar that he's set that no one can meet or sustain.
At the end of this movie, you'll ask yourself (in regards to family, friends, and intimate relationships) are you the one setting the unrealistic bar, or are you the one trying to meet one? Are you being yourself while also allowing others to be who they are.
"Alice" was played BRILLIANTLY by Natalie Portman. She had the right balance of tough chick and little-girl-lost. You clearly understood she was someone who wanted to be loved and accepted "as is" flawed and all. Doesn't everyone? She was the only innocent one, so to speak, in the entire quadrangle. She gave her body at the end masking her rejection and hurt. We all know someone whose done this or continues to do this. Although clearly misguided, Alice is the only one who didn't maliciously or selfishly hurt someone she claimed to love.
What makes Larry so remarkable is that he understood they were all flawed INCLUDING HIMSELF, but unlike Dan, accepted it. He knew Anna was a depressive. She didn't have to stay "up" and perfect for him. Larry allowed her to have her blue funks because he knew exactly what made her function comfortably. He was quite content in lifting and supporting her in her art of "photographing sad people beautifully" as Alice said, hitting the Anna nail right on the head. Anna was beautiful to the world, but was sad upon closer inspection. Dan never even realized her condition because it was all about him. Larry understood 'you are what you are,' anything better than that was a great moment. Because he understood this, he knew how to manipulate and orchestrate them all into ultimately getting what he wanted. Dan never got "it" in regard to his relationships because again, it was about him and distracting from his own securities. He had lived and supposedly loved Anna, but didn't really know her - same for "Alice." Any revelations as to who they really were, came from outside sources.
Alice told Larry hidden truths about herself because he was totally open with her - nothing hidden which in turn made her comfortable enough to talk.
Julia gave a great understated performance. She wasn't overly emotional, she didn't rely on her sexuality, she simply existed from moment-to-moment as a depressive does.
I challenge anyone who hated the ugliness of this movie to rewatch it with new eyes.
"Closer" is a heavyweight breathtaking drama that rivets the viewer's attention. The characters are not entirely likable, although each is eminently watchable. Director Mike Nichols won the Oscar for Best Director for "The Graduate" in 1967 and has been nominated 3 other times for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (1966), "Silkwood" (1983), & "Working Girl" (1988). Along with films like "Primary Colors" and the TV mini-series "Angels in America," he has an unparalleled ear for dialogue. No, it's not particularly pleasant. No, these are not the people your pastor hopes you will be. But each of these characters represent needs and desires that are shared by most people and are as confused by them as are many. Patrick Marber's screenplay adaptation of his stage drama is heart-wrenchingly truthful.
Of the four strong performances here, the most revelatory for me was Julia Roberts' portrayal of American photographer Anna living in London. She is selfish but has a conscience. She takes what she wants, but tries not to admit to it. In the scene with Larry where she breaks up her marriage, it is some of the best screen time of her career. When Larry grills her on the details of her sexual relationship with Dan, her zinger about the taste of his semen, "It's like yours only sweeter" is like a bullet shot from a gun. It recalls the Elizabeth Taylor line in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," "You can take it; you married me for it." It is utterly fearless and brilliant. What a raw amazing performance!
As Dan, Jude Law turns is an edgy self-effacing performance that adds to his reputation as one of the great young actors. His scenes with Natalie Portman are enhanced by their similar pairing in "Cold Mountain." On camera, Law is magnetic. As Dan, the writer of the newspaper obituary column, he turns the ordinary into the extraordinary.
Clive Owen is amazing as the strong less-than-sensitive type. His internet sex dialogues with Jude Law's Dan posing as Anna on the computer are as intense as they are manipulated. When he sits in the aquarium with Anna and with tremendous embarrassment learns the truth, he admits, "He certainly can write!" In the scene with Julia Roberts he bellows "I'm a caveman." It seems to typify the heart of "Closer," investigating these very primal sexual urges we have and how they interweave with the emotional attachments we call "love." Owen was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for this role and won the Golden Globe Award.
As Alice, Natalie Portman turns in an amazing performance. Her character seems somewhat beyond reach, but she works the territory masterfully, exploring each need and nuance as if it were a beautiful discovery. Portman was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar and also won the Golden Globe Award.
Damien Rice's song "The Blower's Daughter" is an interesting DVD extra with that riveting chorus, "Can't take my eyes off of you." It's the perfect love song for this film, part pure love and part compulsive addiction. Mike Nichols has worked with an excellent cast and polished this dialogue to perfection. The rhythms build and twist and the lovers attract, repel, trust and betray. It does not so much build to an inevitable conclusion so much as it feels like we've followed the characters through a very intense period of life. This is a film that will be watched and discussed for decades. Bravo!
on December 4, 2004
"Closer" is a handbook about how not to act in a relationship. It is about deception in all its various permutations: lying, cheating, pretending to love someone, pretending not to love someone.
"Closer" is about anything other then actually being close. In fact "Closer" is about staying as far away emotionally from people as you can: playing games with each other, taunting each other with frank descriptions of intimate encounters and instigating brutal arguments in which the need to hurt and cut as deeply as possible is paramount.
The four involved are: Alice (Natalie Portman), Dan (Jude Law), Anna (Julia Roberts) and Larry (Clive Owen)
Adapted from Patrick Marber's play of the same name, "Closer" several times retains the artificiality of a stage play. Movies are naturalistic, the Stage is artificial and at times the screenplay and Mike Nichols direction leads the actors down the wrong path artistically: for example Julia Roberts, the warmest of screen actresses actually comes off arch and stilted saying some of her lines.
But about midway through, things even out and Marber and Nichols get down to telling their story in movie terms. It's interesting to note that many scenes here remind me of Nichols's first film, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" in their eagerness to go for the throat.
One outstanding scene between Anna and Larry has them going at each other like wounded, feral animals. I can't think of another recent film scene that packs such an emotional wallop. One that makes you wince because, by this point you know the characters well, they use words to slice each other up like surgeons performing heart surgery.
Law and Roberts play difficult characters to like much less love, which is probably what appealed to both of these actors on paper. But Anna and Dan are both emotional wrecks stuck out in a sea of diffidence and indecision and everyone around them is equally coflicted and emotionally closed. But, beautiful failures though they made be, Anna and Dan are nonetheless at the epicenter of this foursome. At times, Law and Roberts are effective and at others not so much.
Clive Owen is the real revelation here as Larry: a Dermatologist addicted to Computer Chat Rooms, from more earthy, humble beginnings than Anna and Dan...but very proud of his accomplishments. Owen plays him rough but sincere and when he tells Anna that he doesn't lie...you believe him.
Natalie Portman comes off best I think as 24-year-old Alice, who meets Dan in a classic "cute meet" manner: she is hit by a car and he helps her to the hospital. Portman, who has played Anne Frank on the stage and has less movie time than any of the other principals, plays Alice as if it is the last role she will ever play: she's direct, she's touching, she's sexy.
There is definitely something chilling and icy about the world that Nichols and Marber create in "Closer." Tread lightly here, keep your feelings to yourself and don't get involved, you just might survive a visit intact.
on December 3, 2004
Have you ever seen a human heart?" asks a character in "Closer," the new film by Mike Nichols. "It looks like a fist wrapped in blood."
That's a pretty good description for "Closer," too, except it doesn't look like a fist wrapped in blood, it feels like one -- and it's reaching out to pummel you with the raw "truth" about men and women, love and sex.
Prepare yourself. This is one of those movies that critics invariably describe as "brutally honest," one of those movies that is determined to peel back the mask of Hollywood's romantic lies and show that deep down, people are cruel, love is a sham, and the world is a cold, hard place. Oh, yeah: And the only honest women in this world are strippers and whores. Don't forget that one.
Nichols has explored this grim territory before, in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" in 1966 and "Carnal Knowledge" in 1971. But if the message was just as unpleasant back then, the timing at least made some sense: The women's movement and the sexual revolution had thrown the old ideas of love and sex into a shredder, and Nichols was hardly the only artist trying to make sense of the shards that were left.
But if those movies were of their time, "Closer," adapted from the hit play by British playwright Patrick Marber, feels like it exists in a vacuum. Why do the characters lie and cheat and hurt the very people they say they love?
Marber is too focused on getting at the cruel "truth" to be distracted by such trivial concerns as motivation. He gives his characters lots of smart, brittle dialogue, but he doesn't give them souls, or history, or anything else that would make them more than caricatured types.
Without such specificity -- and in art, the specific is what leads us to the universal -- we're left with a pretty feeble answer to all that lying and hurt: It's simply human nature.
Marber also wants us to believe that true intimacy is impossible, especially in this modern world of sex, lies and computer hard drives. He hammers his point home with relentless references to strangers. The movie's first line, "Hello, stranger," is just the beginning. A photography show that is the setting of a crucial scene is called -- way too symbolically -- "Strangers," and when a character asks the photographer, "Am I a stranger?" her cutting answer is, "You're a job."
The format is basically a sexual roundelay among four strangers. In London, a writer, Dan (Jude Law), meets and falls for an American girl, Alice (Natalie Portman), when she's hit by a cab. She used to be a stripper, and Dan writes a novel based on her life. When he goes to have his book-jacket photo taken, he falls for the photographer, Anna (Julia Roberts).
Anna spurns him -- she won't let him betray Alice -- and a year or so later he plays a mean practical joke on her. He sets her up, anonymously through a cyber-sex Web site, with a doctor, Larry (Clive Owen).
Anna and Larry hit it off at that rendezvous and get married, and when Dan finds out, he dumps Alice and tries to take Anna away from Larry. Larry responds like an animal whose fresh prey has been stolen.
Each scene takes place at either the beginning or the end of the affair in question. It's a stagy gimmick -- almost as arch and mannered as the theatrical dialogue -- and it works against the film. By cutting out the middle and focusing only on the shallow flirtations of the beginnings and the betrayals of the ends, Marber further alienates us from the characters, who remain distant and unlikable.
The smashing cast certainly tries to bring these thin characters to life, and it's to their credit that the movie is as sleek and nastily entertaining as it is, despite the material.
Roberts works hard against her natural vivacity to play a depressed, guilt-ridden woman torn between two men. She's credible in the role, but it feels like Nichols drained her life-force away, and after an hour of watching her look haunted and hollow you think, "What exactly is the point of making Julia Roberts a depressive?" It's like making Audrey Hepburn drab.
Law also is stripped of his charm. Dan is written as a weak conniver who will lie to get anything, and the role reduces him to jealous sniveling and begging.
Portman fares a lot better in a role for which she's perfectly suited. Her Alice brings to mind the lines in the Bob Dylan song, "Just Like a Woman": "She makes love just like a woman, yes she does, and she aches just like a woman, but she breaks just like a little girl."
As impressive as these three performances are, though, the breakout star is Owen, who tears into the part of the competitive, vulgar, scheming Larry with a primitive brio. Larry is the one who says the heart is like a fist, and when he says it, he looks as if he could eat that heart whole and still beating. If only the movie had one available.
on April 7, 2005
Closer is one of those rare films that got under my skin and made me evaluate my life and the lives of the characters in the film. The film's four leads are the only actors that speak lines and the whole film revolves around their relationships with one another in a time span of a couple years.
There are no bombs, explosions, explicit sex scenes, or live action, but we do have here are four powerful performances by four incredible actors.
Julia Roberts performance was the most underrated of the film and while she is outdone by each of her co-stars, this is one of her best performances. But the real stars here are Clive Owen and Natalie Portman who own each scene they are in.
Whenever Owen and Portman share screen time, the scene is so enigmatically engaging that I can't even put my finger on what the spark is here. These two should look into doing another film together because their chemistry is undeniable.
There is never a point in "Closer" where the plot slows or the relationships become less defined. We don't get to see the main action of the story unfold, as most scenes are devoted to the characters' feelings or explanations of those situations. But that is what makes "Closer" hit the mark: It is a film that examines the reasons for why we do what we do. The why in this film is much more important than the what. Highly reccomended.
"Closer" is a film about four people and the role that truth (or different kinds of truth) plays in their relationships as they try to get closer to themselves and to each other. The mixed reaction from viewers is because while "Closer" is a nicely packaged film and a fast-paced intelligent screenplay; the four main characters are "extremes" or at least extreme examples of the behaviors at the allegorical core of the film. These "expressionistically" drawn characters offend and disappoint the viewer segment expecting realistic and sympathetic portrayals (insert "characters with whom they can identify" here).
But they are extreme because they are intended to illustrate (in obvious ways) certain subtle elements of our romantic relationships. The two male characters, Dan (Jude Law) and Larry (Clive Owen), are products of and participants in the most fundamental Darwinian courtship process. Despite making a pretense of having evolved from the competitive courtship of male primates, they are still driven more by the need to win and secure a trophy than by a quest to love. Likewise Anna, the older female (Julia Roberts), is attracted by the male demonstrations of dominance, both the physical bluster of strength and the mental head games intended to manipulate her emotions. Accordingly her behavior encourages these demonstrations by the males.
Contrasted with these three is the younger female (Natalie Portman) who seeks a man who can transcend primitive drives, loving her and allowing her to love him.
Into this mix writer Patrick Marber inserts the truth factor in an ironic way. Portman's character places little value on words, adopting a false name at the beginning of the film. That she is superficially living a lie is ironic because she is the only one of the four who does not lie about their true feelings or engage in self-deception. Her transparency and detached self-awareness is symbolized by her job as a stripper.
The other three torture themselves and each other with superficial truths while engaging in compulsive deception about their actions and actual feelings, to each other and to themselves. Their duplicity is symbolized by their occupations. Dan is an obit writer, skilled in the use of euphemisms to disguise the unflattering characteristics of the deceased. Anna is a photographer, skilled in freezing a single moment in time uncharacteristic of the actual subject she is representing. Larry is a dermatologist focused on the superficial surface that one publicly presents.
The key exchange occurs early in the film as Alice and Dan discuss how essential euphemisms are in his job:
Alice: What would my euphemism be? Dan: She was... disarming. Alice: That's not a euphemism. Dan: Yes, it is.
Alice's up-front and open behavior causes him to let down his guard and feel a higher level of emotion, but his need to make new conquests and to test his attractiveness soon reasserts itself. She is willing to forgive this until finally convinced that he cannot transcend something so much a part of his basic nature. With this realization she falls out of love.
"Closer" is much like "XX/XY" in its exploration of the mysteries of male discontent although it is philosophically deeper and much better written. Mark Ruffalo plays Coles (the Dan character in that film), but Law's portrayal is more convincing because he does not have to alternate between rebel and wimp, something that Ruffalo could not quite pull off.
All four performances are solid although Roberts is given very little with which to work. Portman is especially good. The problem with "Closer" is that its symbolic message is not getting through to most viewers (at least it would appear so from the many clueless reviews and comments) who try to relate to it on a literal level. But if you like abstract tales deceptively showcased in a realistic package you should really enjoy this fine film.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
on March 6, 2005
ok first, i like to tell people what other movies i am into so they know if they should disregard my review or not. my favorite movies are the likes of Garden State, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Harold and Maude, Saved, Fight Club, and anything else with honest emotion at the core. Humans run on emotions, and i like movies that can accurately depict them. Closer possibly has done this in the most riveting, heartbreaking, and accurate manner
I wont give away much of the plot, but the movie is mostly about infidelity. It mixes the emotions that come with sex and relationships so truly that it hits people like a knife. The four characters, Alice (Natalie Portman), Dan (Jude Law), Anna (Julia Roberts), and Larry (Clive Owen), all intermingle in different ways, sexually and heated. It is about the tragedy of it all, and how relationships always have their ups and downs, but when infidelity is in play, no one truly wins.
the four actors are nothing short of incredible. i havent seen acting that good in many movies, and they did this all without weird fantastic settings or incredibly big main characters. they were all ordinary characters in an ordinary setting, and they made it seem monumental. i couldn't say anyone was better than anyone else, because they all had different characters and scenes to play, different emotions to bring to the table. roberts, however, has brought her usual style and flare into a totally different region, and her often excoriating strikes are felt by the audience as well
probably my favorite aspect is that this movie is about sex in all forms and reasons. but there is not ONE sex scence. it isnt until you think about that u realize that because there is enough sexuality and tension to produce any picture you wanted. right down to the painfully strong stripper scence where portman and owen are as close to having sex as any in the movie, arent even allowed to touch. it isnt noticed if you are as affected by the movie as i was.
possibly one of my favorite movies of all time, anyone that doesnt take something away from it has never felt the things they so clearly emote
While some films really get stronger and stronger with each viewing, I can't say that that is the case with `Closer'. When I first saw the film I was totally ravaged by it and swore it a near-perfect masterpiece. It just really spoke to me, with its blunt and harsh depictions of the realities of relationships. The performances just wowed me in every sense of the word because I felt that bitterness and that anger and that passion.
Then I saw it again...and again.
As time goes by and this film turns over again and again in my head I begin to see flaws I didn't notice on the outset. Especially when you compare this with the similarly themed yet drastically different `We Don't Live Here Anymore' (which was released the same year), `Closer' begins to feel stagnant.
I'll get to that in a minute.
The films premise is rather simple. Dan is a flirtatious and charming man dating Alice, a stripper who is trying to feel a part of herself that has been missing for a long time. Dan is attempting to become a novelist. He meets and instantly falls for Anna, a photographer, but she isn't interested in a relationship that isn't exclusive. So, in an attempt to seek revenge, Dan ends up sending Larry (a dermatologist) after Anna, only to have his plan backfire when the two end up hitting it off.
Oh the twisted web we weave.
`Closer' is never tame, and it never holds back from completely wiping our faces in the dirt that has become of their relationships ("he tastes like you, only sweeter" is still my favorite line from any movie in the past decade), but I think that in all its brave audacity one finds its biggest flaw. `Closer' feels rather one-note. There is no real variation of emotional complexity. This is just a very evil film. The performances, while seemingly powerful on the outset, lack any real longevity for me because they simply don't carry with them the range of emotion needed to make that long lasting impression. All four actors put in some amazing work, but it's the characters that don't feel complete and so their performances don't have that well-rounded quality to them. They are all very good at being angry and destructive.
But, there is always Natalie Portman. Say what you will about her lack of talent (the girl really has put in some `stinky' work during her career) but between this and `Cold Mountain', she proved that she has a lot of potential. Maybe it was being given the only character that seemingly comes full-circle, but when all is said and done, it is Alice that I remember most of all. While Clive Owen and Julia Roberts (Roberts is also remarkable astute in her performance and really elevates her characters lack of a real arc) may have the most volatile and explosive and memorable scenes in the film, it is Alice as a character (and thus Portman as an actress) that we will remember most, because her presence is so haunting.
I still get shivers whenever I hear `Blowers Daughter'.
In the end I still feel that `Closer' is a very good film, it just lacks that extra layer in order to achieve brilliance. It comes on very strong, and so you initial reaction can be very deceiving (this is brash, this is brave, this is crushing; it must be marvelous!), but over time its lack of real emotional depth leaves it feeling rather shallow. I highly recommend `We Don't Live Here Anymore' over this film, but as you can see, a B grade (which is what I am giving this film) is still very worth your time.
on February 6, 2007
"Closer" is vulgar, depressing, bizarre and brutally honest.
I loved every minute of it.
on April 26, 2005
I watched Closer thinking that it was basically going to be a movie about four people who are entwined in one way or another through sex and deception. I was right. But the miraculous thing about this movie is that it is so much more than that. Through most of the movie, there were scenes that made me laugh (Jude Law and Clive Owen pretending to be two people having internet sex), scenes that made my brow furrow with confusion, and scenes that made me cringe because of not only how sexually open this movie was, but also because of how horrible some of these characters were to each other (the Julia Roberts and Clive Owen break up scene is especially memorable in this case). But through it all, its been three days since I saw this movie, and I am still thinking about it in my head, because it is really that profound. Honestly, I give kudos to whoever wrote this script on this movie because it is absolutely beautiful, in a raunchy yet realistic kind of way. The lines these characters have seem confusing, sometimes even out of place, until the end and you really get thinking about all the things they say to each other and what the director is really trying to tell you about life. I'm not a big fan of overly done celebrity powerhouse movies, but Natalie Portman is at the top of her game in this movie and Julia Roberts and Clive Owen are extremely good as well. Jude Law, on the other hand, got on my nerves just a little but is forgivable and finally redeemed in his very last scene (with Portman). If you want a movie that uses the usual hollywood formula of love, then stay far away, but if you want a movie that will make you think and laugh, then by all means, get Closer.