August 30, 2005
Mike Nichols is enjoying something of a comeback. First, there was the critically-lauded Angels in America mini-series that aired on HBO and now the equally successful Closer (2004). Together, they prove that there is an audience for smart dramas by and for adults. Nichols has a keen sense for absorbing character studies that explore, in unflinching honesty, the complex relationships between men and women. Closer shows the destructive results of infidelity.
“Hello, stranger.” It is these words that start a chain reaction of events that shatters the lives of four people living in London. Dan (Law) meets Alice (Portman) at the scene of an accident. He accompanies her to the hospital to make sure she’s okay and they strike up a conversation while waiting for her to be treated. There’s a spark, an attraction and before long they are involved and living together. He writes obituaries and she’s a waitress who left a messy relationship behind in New York City.
Anna (Roberts) is a photographer who takes a picture of Dan for the dust jacket of his upcoming book. They flirt and he kisses her. Larry (Owen) is a dermatologist who likes to engage in cybersex in chat rooms on the Internet. He meets Anna—a set-up unbeknownst to each other by Dan as a practical joke that goes terribly wrong as they hit it off and become involved and eventually married. Dan is a manipulator of emotions, unable to love others completely and loyally. He has a wandering eye—he lives with Alice while he lusts after Anna.
The four leads are uniformly excellent. They expertly handle their complex characters and the provocative dialogue that speaks frankly about sex and relationships. Julia Roberts turns in her best performance since Erin Brockovich (2000). Clive Owen shows that his strength lies in intimate dramas and not in big budget action epics like King Arthur (2004). Jude Law demonstrates his impressive versatility yet again with this cold, shallow character. Finally, Natalie Portman also shows her range, coming off her endearing extrovert in Garden State (2004) with a heartbreaking performance in this film.
The characters in Closer are messed up and damaged people. They make choices that hurt others and don’t think of the consequences. The dialogue is intelligent and insightful about the way people can so easily hurt each other emotionally and make the wrong choices. Mike Nichols brings a strong visual eye to the film as he successfully gives the play that it is based on a cinematic look while retaining the dialogue that has its own unique rhythm and cadence. This is due in large part to having the play’s author, Patrick Marber, adapt his own work for the big screen. The result is a tough, honest look at the intertwining lives of four people.
Unfortunately, the only extra is a music video for Damien Rice’s moving song, “The Blower’s Daughter.”