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November 2004

By Wilson Morales

Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Director: Mike Nichols
Producers: Mike Nichols, John Calley, & Cary Brokaw
Screenwriter: Patrick Marber, based on his play of the same name
Director of Photography: Stephen Goldblatt
Cast: Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, & Clive Owen

Previewed at Loews Lincoln Square, NYC


    The beauty of seeing a film with a well-known cast and hoping that it's good is

whether the script can make each actor/ actress and the character they're play appealing. When the script is the catalyst that intrigues the audience, then it up to that cast to keep it from slowing down and they excel in keeping the film invigorating. Julia Roberts has always played "safer" roles; even the part of a prostitute in "Pretty Woman" was safe. At that time in her career, she could take risks. Now that she's won an Oscar, folks expect more. In what is truly an about face to her fans, she takes a role where she says words like "f*ck" and other foul languages that would make one a little horny. Though she does it in a bland way, the rest of the cast are strong enough in their own style that you can overlook her performance. Love is a fortress that's hard to break and when it does, it gets crushed, and Nichols has directed a film in which human relations are tested when emotions are not controlled. "Closer" is a raw and stimulating film filled with excellent performances and an exotic script!

Based on the play by Patrick Marber and set in London, "Closer" is about four individuals who have no remorse when it comes to love and its rules. Dan (Law) is a obituary writer whose book is about to come out when he meets New Yorker Alice (Portman) during a street accident. As she literally awakens, she's immediately smitten with him and over time he feels the same. Alice is a former stripper who just ended a relationship back home. When the book does come out, and Dan needs a photo, he meets Anna (Roberts), a photographer, and without any consideration towards his now live-in girlfriend, Alice, he courts Anna on the spots. Alice senses the vibe between the two as she too meets Anna and still allows her photo of her but not before she lets Alice in on awareness. Time goes by while on the computer using the internet, Dan goes into a sex chat room and strikes a conversation with Larry (Owen), a dermatologist, who thinks he's talking to a woman. As a practical joke, Dan sets up Larry to meet an unsuspecting Anna. What he doesn't count on is that exchange between Larry and Anna leads them to become a romantic couple. Time goes by until Dan and Alice come clean with their loved ones about their affair. Naturally, everyone is upset but in different way. While Alice wants to know what went wrong in their relationship, Larry wants details as to who was better in the sack. At this time, Anna and Larry are now a married couple. The repercussions that soon follow are of cruel intentions. For some, it's about the need to be loved, physically and emotionally, and for others, it's about self-gratification.

In the spirit of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe", which coincidentally was directed by Director Nichols, the scene stealer of the movie, and what keeps the film from falling apart are the words. It's not that often in American cinema where words of love are used in a cold, brutal, and calculating way. Everyone's guilty in the betrayal of the word. Some may say that Natalie Portman has "grown up" with this film, but I beg to differ. For most of her film career, she's played adult roles, and stood on par with her bigger co-stars at the time. Even when she played a thirteen year-old in "Beautiful Girls" a few years back, her role was bigger than her age, and she played it wonderfully. Besides the appeal of her physical appearance, Portman plays the role with such care. She's the only believable and sane character one can possibly relate with. Roberts played with such blandness it's to tell what her character was feeling. Law and Owen played their roles with such finesse it was like watching Kane and Abel. One has no emotion, or uses it to his advantage, while the other has too much of it, yet doesn't know how to control. Nichols does a great job in demonstrating the numerous ways love can be broken. Marble's script is full of drollness and passion, with each line at times hitting close to the heart, but at times what may have worked on stage with the time sequences, doesn't present the same tone on screen. It's a bit hard to perceive that these individuals can still get to each other's heart given the amount of time that has passed. You never really discover why one was drawn to the other besides lust, and if it's lust, what was the glue that kept the couple together for a period of time. Nevertheless, Owen has a grand o' time with his role and while Portman, who already has legions of fans from her Star Wars saga, will no doubt bring a whole new level of admirers. The performances are the draw that captures your attention, and that is the beauty of "Closer".