Starring: Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Clive Owen
Director: Mike Nichols
Obituary writer Dan (Law) and Alice (Portman) observe each other from a distance on the street and get so caught up in exchanging smiles that Alice wanders aimlessly in front of a car. Dan brings her to hospital and romance is born. We jump forward in time where Dan is sitting in a studio being photographed by Anna (Roberts). We learn that Dan has written a book based on the life of Alice, who he now lives with, but he’s taken with Anna and kisses her, even when Alice is only a few dozen feet away in another room.
Dan plays a part in Anna meeting Larry (Owen) when he interacts with him in an internet chatroom, pretending to be a sexually provocative girl called Anna. He sends Larry to a local aquarium to meet ‘her’ the next day. When Larry gets there he happens to bump in to Robert’s character and the two of them hit it off. What are the chances?
With the characters introduced, the rest of the movie trails their complicated and inadvertently intertwined lives. Dan loves Anna; Anna might feel the same way but she’s loathe to admit it. Dan does seem to love Alice and Larry does seem to love Anna, but when Larry meets Alice at one of Anna’s exhibitions he doesn’t hold back in showing his immediate attraction to her.
Marber’s play has been universally praised so I’m in no doubt that it’s a great picece of work and all that. But looking at it purely in it’s movie guise, “Closer” doesn’t work. In fact I’d go as far as to say that it’s a completely unenjoyable piece of junk.
The movie is about four very troubled people who find each other, fool themselves in to believing that this is happiness when in fact they just end up wanting what they don’t have. They think the truth will set them free (‘without the truth, we’re just animals’ – Dan) but in fact it seems to lead to their downfall at different times. Each one seems adept at reading the others. They can spot a lie and choose to embarce that lie rather than ignore it. They’re probably very good at spotting a lie because their lives are built on them. In certain ways the characters are all weak, perhaps a microcosm of humanity.
Marber’s diaglogue is very realistic but this realism comes at a price – namely, vulgarity. I’m no prude but the constant use of sexually explicit phrases in the conversation was just downright unpleasant. Recognising the intense performances, occasional wit, quality dialogue and interesting direction (events skipped, leaving it to the viewer to work out what happened from the dialogue), is one thing, but actually feeling entertained at the end of the two hours is another thing altogether.
It might seem somewhat dense to award a star and a half to a movie that is based on one of the most acclaimed stage plays of recent years. It must be some play – but a good movie it does not make.