Starring: Jude Law, Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman, Clive Owen
Director: Mike Nichols
In director Mike Nichols’ latest film, “Closer,” one of his four main characters states that most people “don’t know the first thing about love because [they] don’t understand compromise.” The audience won’t fully appreciate the complete product either if they’re privy to criticizing the realistic approaches Nichols takes in dissecting the human relationship and revealing all of its ugly parts. Brilliantly dark, dirty, nasty, lewd and downright unacceptable for a number of the high-minded individuals that chose to walk out of the screening, “Closer” is a masterpiece in cinema that doesn’t stray from providing the audience with convincingly tense situations and sexually malicious language in order to relay its message.
The story follows four strangers living in London and the series of deceptive infidelities that occur between them as they fight for their respective loved ones. As the movie unfolds, uninspired obituary writer Dan (Jude Law) witnesses Alice (Natalie Portman) get hit by a car while crossing the street and quickly escorts her to the hospital. One year later, the couple has seemingly fallen in love and Dan has suddenly become inspired to write a book. While shooting the head shot for the inside cover of his novel, Dan shares a kiss with photographer Anna (Julia Roberts) and they part ways.
Fast-forward a few more months to the opening of Anna’s art exhibit and she is now dating a dermatologist named Larry (Clive Owen), who she accidentally met by way of a playful internet prank set in motion by Dan. Nicknamed Cupid by the happy couple for his unconscious matchmaking success, Dan still loves Anna and vice versa, but their secret can’t be kept forever.
As the story skips days, months and sometimes even years, the film feels a lot like it’s been divided into separate acts like a theater production, but it’s not incredibly surprising considering that “Closer” was indeed an award-winning play before being adapted for the screen by the original play's scribe Patrick Marber. Directing the incredible cast of four into their sexual frenzy is Mike Nichols, who is the master of the risky sex film and has been since he first dropped the bomb in the later 60’s with “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “The Graduate.” It's obvious that Nichols loves to elevate his characters onto Cloud Nine before dropping them flat on their faces with embarrassment, but his success as the director of the film is justified by his ability to flawlessly project a crowd of sexual misfits into likeable characters. He even recruits a shooting gallery of A-list stars that do a wonderful job with their blemished characters.
Jude Law is at his best as usual, but fans of the British actor witnessed his A-game earlier this year in both “Alfie” and “I Heart Huckabees,” and Julia Roberts (who probably takes the most dramatic 180 degrees turn of all the actors) actually pales in comparison, but it’s the two lesser known stars that shine the brightest. Clive Owen is absolutely perfect – especially considering he played the role of Dan in the theater production – and oozes a mysterious charm that only better confirms my belief that he should be christened as the newest Bond, but it is Natalie Portman that is the true star, delivering her second career-shattering performance this year and completing her transformation into an adult actress as the sexy and ruthless stripper.
“Closer” is a perfect film because, essentially, it’s a real downer – but only because it realistically portrays the emotional monsters that most of us really are. The film may even seem like its too perfect for the Oscars, but if you look a little closer, you’ll be soon to change your mind. The film’s amazing cast of talent is just the icing at the top that makes the finished product so much sweeter, but the scripted dialogue is some of the best ever in the history of film and ultimately serves as the story’s major building block of greatness. If you believe in good films, you won’t stop watching.