Review: Closer

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The games we play and the things we say are explored in Closer, the new film from director Mike Nichols and screenwriter Patrick Marber, based on his play.

We all have a lot to say when our hearts are involved. This has never been truer for four unique and inwardly tortured strangers.

Anna (Julia Roberts) gives into temptation a little when she photographs heavily-involved Dan (Jude Law) for his latest book jacket. The raw attraction between the two is undeniable, but Dan is involved with Alice (Natalie Portman), a stripper with a heart of gold who is trying to hang up her degrading career.

Meanwhile a prominent doctor, Larry (Clive Owen), has a rather erotic chat online with a female stranger, who unbeknownst to Larry is actually Dan. Before Larry knows it, he will come face to face with Anna, Alice, and eventually Dan. His encounters will unhinge a web of deceit, lies, and eventual heartbreak.

Closer has been dubbed an "adult film about adults for adults". What exactly does that mean? And is that such a rare commodity in today's multiplexes?

Closer brutally, honestly, and emotionally corrupts and eventually dissects its characters right before your very eyes. But as a film goes, we watch the journey and see some wonderful performances but that is about all. The film spends a lot of time on the characters and if you aren't hooked in the first 10 minutes, you are in for a long and drawn out ride.

Closer is about the characters and it studies them and breaks them down so we can see just how people can self-destruct and harm each other all in the name of love. Or is it love?

Really, are of these characters actually in love? That surely is debatable. They seem too selfish and selfless to know what love is. I would have to say the only character that could have been in love was Clive Owen's Larry, because he seems to be the only one who actually falls apart. There is also some ounce of love in Natalie Portman's Alice, but that seems to prove false in the last 20 minutes.

I really loved the performances of both Clive Owen and Natalie Portman because I found them the most believable. Both Julia Roberts and Jude Law seem to be holding their cards so close to their chests that they almost come off as bored zombies. The last time I remember Julia Roberts being this withdrawn on screen was when she played the title role in Mary Reilly. As for Law, he is just a really confused pretty face.

I liked that Owen's Larry was a self-erupting volcano of raw emotion and he seemed to be the only thunderhead in this emotionless blue sky of a film. He is a brute but at least he is honest. There is so much range in his performance, from his awkwardness in the aquarium scenes to his animalistic shows of emotion in mid to later portions of the film. He proves once more how utterly brilliant this underrated actor is.

Yes, Closer is an adult film, but it is also a study in human emotion and interaction. What the film lacks is a sense of larger depth, fuller scope, and deeper tension. Just because it is based on a play doesn't mean it actually has to look and feel like one.

Because Closer feels so much like a play, I think it loses its impact. If this were live and we were in the same room with these people, it would be more shocking and revealing to us, but because it's celluloid it is almost like we are one of those guys who sits in the glass booths to watch strippers. We aren't in the same room, yet we are. It's odd and a lot of the emotion is lost in transition to celluloid or through a pane of glass.

Closer is an interesting character study and probably should be examined by university media courses, but as for entertainment it is just really off-putting. (3 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

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