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Overall Rating

Awesome: 26.35%
Worth A Look32.93%
Average: 17.96%
Pretty Bad: 8.38%
Total Crap: 14.37%

12 reviews, 95 user ratings

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Closer (2004)
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by Erik Childress

"I Can't Take My Eyes Off Ms. Portman. Julia Roberts, On The Other Hand..."
3 stars

Between Kinsey and now, Closer, strict and easily outraged moralists are likely to cry out for the reinstatement of the motion picture moral code from back in the day. After all, we live in the country where a woman’s exposed back on Monday Night Football caused discussion for a week about the decline of civilization. These people will never see these movies naturally. They know Alfred Kinsey was the sex researcher and their preconceived notions about the man are already enough. And surely they’ve heard the hype about Closer being a sexually provocative study of relationships. Anything is enough to set these people off, but chances are that anyone walking out of Mike Nichols’ latest are liable to be less SHOCKED than the hype suggests. They’re going to see some powerful acting for sure, certainly enough to recommend the film, but one which ultimately just doesn’t add up to much.

Innocently enough, the film begins with a Meet-Cute that most romantic films couldn’t resist. Dan (Jude Law) notices the waify, red-haired Alice (Natalie Portman) from afar in the crowd walking towards him. But a cab meets her first and she is knocked to the street. She doesn’t have much except a badly bruised leg, but Dan is there to look after her. Continuing a year where Portman finds love in waiting rooms, Alice and Dan spend a portion of their day together before he reveals that he already has a linguist girlfriend. Apparently she’s not a cunning one, because we never see nor ever hear of her again.

Thus begins a succession of jump-forwards where we have to piece together what year it is and who’s-with-whom. Dan, an obiturary writer, has written a book about Alice, a former stripper, yet still doesn’t seem to know anything about her. Certainly not enough to keep him from hitting on Anna (Julia Roberts), the photographer taking his picture for the book jacket. Where this comes from, we’re uncertain. Sometimes men just have to plant their seed everywhere and Dan is no exception. In the mother of all coincidences, Dan even conducts a cruel prank on Anna’s behalf that, ironically, results in her finding her own man, a doctor named Larry (Clive Owen).

As the film has been adapted from Patrick Marber’s stage play, almost every scene consists of two of these four characters having a conversation, usually about not wanting to be with the other two. Some of their exchanges are frank and ripe with the zingy banter that entrances you no matter what is being said. Others call attention to the superficiality of the characters and the antiquated points that the material is trying to drive forward.

How often have you begged and pleaded to hear the truth or vice versa from someone who swears they won’t be upset if you just give them the whole and nothing but? Then once you deliver, a whole new set of problems emerge. These four characters are beyond obsessed with the truth. They are addicted with wanting to know it. Only most of them are too cowardly to act when asked themselves. Larry is the exception, a semi-counterpoint to Law’s Dan. Both are bastards. But Dan is because he’s a liar and makes Law’s Alfie earlier this year Lloyd Dobler by comparison. Larry is because he says what he means, when he means it and right to your face.

Julia Roberts is saddled with the least interesting of the four and consequently gives the flattest performance as a result. She’s more of an enigma than Dan is with her drop-of-a-hat swapping of partners. It’s not even that she’s evil or sexually liberated. Like most of Closer’s antagonists, she just kinda does it. With all the time-jumping, there just is no time to grasp what’s going wrong in their lives to make such consequential decisions. Like all adulterous excuse makers, it’s never better than their partner, just different.

Sleeping on the couch at one point, Natalie Portman so innocently reminds us of that little girl she once was in The Professional. But she’s all woman when Alice turns back to stripping, the one place where her power over men is 100% no questions asked. And if they are, the response may or may not be the truth. Early scenes with Alice we can place her as the displaced, grown-up version of her Garden State character, but still one with a little girl’s heart in her scenes with Dan. He’s so egocentric that in his care for her, he believes that choosing to leave would put her in dire straits. If he only saw her work her magic in the clubs.

Portman is great in the film and probably has the only character worth providing a care about, even if that’s not what she wants. Hopefully this won’t dissuade voters from turning a blind eye from her brilliant work in Garden State. Double nominations never hurt anyone. But the real Oscar talk should be pointed squarely at Clive Owen, who establishes everything we need to know about his character during his uproarious opening scene on an internet chat room. The words may be Marber’s, but Owen sells it with his playful, fetishized enthusiasm and he never misses a step during his three major confrontations with each of the others. It’s one of the year’s best performances, leading or supporting.

As frank sexual speak goes in the movies, at the end of 2004, Closer is tepid at best. Saying it with more piss and vinegar just makes it louder where Neil LaBute adjusted the same frankness in Your Friends and Neighbors and The Shape of Things to make room for the exploration of how sex and our desire for it can turn us into lathering animals. Closer doesn’t even compare to the dreamlike investigation of marital infidelity that Kubrick brought to Eyes Wide Shut. There’s a bit of a bait-and-switch towards the end that calls into question the idea of an American Angel brought in to save the lives of these Londoners while dying a bit inside herself, but more likely you’ll be asking how anyone can spend three years with someone and not find out their real name.

When Seinfeld’s George Costanza fondly recalled Nichols’ Carnal Knowledge at first, it briefly appeared to have an effect on him like any lasting piece of art does. Of course his first thought turned out to be whether or not Candace Bergen showed her breasts in that. In Closer, some of the more horny contingent may remember Natalie in the strip club. There’s even a moment when she spreads her legs like a champion from my dreams and moves her panties to the side to reveal what’s underneath. Of course, in Closer, what’s underneath is obscured by a big head in the way.

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originally posted: 12/03/04 16:01:48
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User Comments

12/29/17 morris campbell mean spirited but HONEST 4 stars
12/09/12 Simon raw, crackling acting. not so smoothly made, but replaces the singular intesity of a play 5 stars
6/26/11 brian Does love turn to hate because of lies...or because of honesty? 5 stars
5/29/11 Shaun A It's a good film, but the heart's not in it. Maybe just not my kind. 3 stars
5/22/10 Dane Youssef One of the finest photographed plays in years. All fucking scorch like Gods. 5 stars
2/07/10 art natalie portman has an exotic dancer YAWN! 1 stars
7/18/09 Lesli Lovd NP..lovd when CO railed @ JR. If uve been cheated on, you'll relate well. 5 stars
12/22/08 CTT Shallow and hypocritical, thank God for Portman's ass 2 stars
4/26/07 mb How Four Pigs With A Bit Of Charm Live 2 stars
3/31/07 David Pollastrini Natalie Portman is hot in this! 2 stars
2/28/07 Keystra Williams Portman and Owen rule. Roberts and Law SUCK. 4 stars
2/19/07 Nick Maday I know Cate Blanchett was good, but I was rooting for Natalie Portman. Loved this movie. 4 stars
2/14/07 Bitchflaps Really quite shit, Law and Portman are vacuous, Roberts asinine, Owen irritating as fuck. 1 stars
10/21/06 Trevor Cathartic 5 stars
10/10/06 Bruce The film had an intrigue to it that makes you want to look deeper 4 stars
7/16/06 Marty character interaction was amazing. owen rocked, roberts was the weakest 4 stars
5/10/06 omar pretty good. i just like the song 4 stars
3/11/06 Tanya enjoyable 4 stars
12/16/05 Christina Silva Closer is the greatest most honest movie i have ever seen. It is so accurate. 5 stars
12/12/05 millersxing What posturing! Oversexed, understated, uber-chic, nauseating "relationship" drama. 3 stars
11/28/05 Cedric Oh, that lucky thong that gets to floss Natalie's dooky ditch! 4 stars
10/22/05 rebecca Vacuous piece of nonsense 1 stars
10/20/05 Uche I think it is a good movioe but I really don't understand the end. 5 stars
9/13/05 ray mero For me, this is a perfect date movie...after which a nicely amused and hooting fuck. 4 stars
8/11/05 ES How to commit adultry badly, I found sympathy for none of them, waste of money 1 stars
8/01/05 TheOthersFan Alice/Jane puts it most succinctly: "A bunch of sad strangers photographed beautifully." 3 stars
6/22/05 The Lurchprong Splitter Good acting from Portman, Law, and Owen, but arrogant Julia R just shitting on her laurels! 3 stars
6/14/05 Blanche Pope pretentious rubbish! 1 stars
6/03/05 Indrid Cold A fascinating look at love, lust, betrayal and lies in 21st century relationships. 5 stars
6/02/05 malcolm i had a portman 2xfeature with "Phantom Menace." should've got "The Professional" instead. 4 stars
5/02/05 dfa hello stranger! 3 stars
4/26/05 E-FUNK Clive Owen verbally berrates Julia Roberts. Worth every second of your time. 4 stars
4/19/05 Nicole Baugh Natalie Portman broke my heart in this movie. 4 stars
4/19/05 Elizaveta people do messed up shit to each other in the name of love. 4 stars
4/18/05 Calandria Dexter I thought this movie was fantastic! Wonderful twists! Love can be hard! 5 stars
4/16/05 Carol Conway It was okay 3 stars
4/11/05 Monday Morning Mike Nichols lost a lot of cred with this one. A huge disappointment except for JL and NP. 2 stars
4/11/05 Phil M. Aficionado Nicely made film about the kind of relationships that don't happen 'cuz they make no sense. 3 stars
4/07/05 Roderick Cromar Where I live, people simply don't behave like this. 2 stars
4/06/05 clatz Clive Owen should only play Pinocchio he is that wooden!! Portman is the only thing worhtw 1 stars
4/06/05 Ethan Clive Owen was amazing, good film 4 stars
4/03/05 Eric hardcore satire with characters who have no filter on what they think out loud 4 stars
3/14/05 Daveman A sober, resounding testament to the irrevokable consequences of infidelity... remarkable. 4 stars
3/12/05 Jim Totally engagaing end to end. Clive Owen - wow! 5 stars
2/21/05 fiona HOW BORING! It's Dawsons Creek for 30 somethings. Yaaaawn. 1 stars
2/20/05 abhster Clive Owen makes this movie. What a terrific role, although it's a lead, not supporting 5 stars
2/15/05 Why are fish therapeutic? Fish are not as therapeutic as Natalie Portman's crapper-flappers! 3 stars
2/14/05 H.P. Lovecraft Clive owen rules. Natalie portman too. 5 stars
2/05/05 xxplosive Natalie Portman makes this film worth seeing, she is outstanding throughout. 4 stars
2/05/05 John Bale Theatrical thesis on rampant infidelity, fine direction & acting. Natalie is riveting. 5 stars
2/02/05 lisa w definitely adult themed movie, which had a much different approach to relationships 4 stars
2/02/05 Weeez This film makes you address the darker side of relationships, and consequences. 4 stars
2/01/05 kaz cold as intimacy at all.. 1 stars
2/01/05 Alison Mosbeck I felt that this film was very well-made, but I was not crazy about the themes it presented 4 stars
1/30/05 Gretchen Lowe Natalie Portman is hot 5 stars
1/29/05 Wendy strange 4 stars
1/29/05 Lisa Clarizio Up there with Lost in Translation as one of the best movies where nothing happens 5 stars
1/29/05 petrushka Beautiful and cruel, fascinating. Portman & Owen shine in this adult look at relationships. 5 stars
1/27/05 Bert Rito Vote #1 Clive Owen for Bond! He was brilliant, as was Portman. Roberts looks like a horse. 4 stars
1/27/05 Roz I loved this movie. A fascinating adult look at truth, lies, fantasy and deception. 5 stars
1/25/05 michael shulman excellent script and excellent acting 4 stars
1/24/05 JDAWG This movie was horrible. "I love u, no, now I love u, but I'm gonna sleep with someone" 1 stars
1/17/05 Victor Amazin 5 stars
1/13/05 Pamela thought provoking 5 stars
1/09/05 aeon i liked it. It made me feel lessl ike a freak because i ask questions like that too.... 5 stars
1/03/05 The Mockingbird That's some honesty right there. I love Portman more than ever, and my my my Clive Owen 5 stars
1/03/05 Movie Lover waste of time. waste of Money. 1 stars
12/31/04 I.S> Worst piece of crap I've seen in years! 1 stars
12/28/04 Lynn disturbing. ruthless. absolutely loved it. 4 stars
12/27/04 Steve Nothing in this movie made me care about what happens. 2 stars
12/24/04 Gilly Concarne execrable 1 stars
12/22/04 carleton fine film , interesting everything 5 stars
12/21/04 Randy 2 excrutiating hours of witnessing 4 miserable, self-absorbed, uninteresting people 1 stars
12/19/04 Kyle Wonderful movie. 5 stars
12/19/04 jcjs wow, humdinger, tough stuff 5 stars
12/15/04 ZF an effective semi-wrenching film about people manipulating each other emotionally 4 stars
12/15/04 Elizabeth Interesting. The dialogue is too "written", though the CONTENT is believable. 3 stars
12/14/04 dbx If you're going to be pretentious, at least be good at it. 1 stars
12/13/04 Lucas Stensland Worse movie I've seen this year 1 stars
12/13/04 Nicole Depressing - shows just how shitty people can treat each other 4 stars
12/12/04 Eric a bit of a downer, but great character development & shows that love/hate is very complex 4 stars
12/11/04 estherben good 4 stars
12/11/04 Dianne I appreciated it, but would be hard-pressed to say I liked it. 4 stars
12/11/04 Maureen I walked out. I was not prepared for the vulgarness. I am not a prude but after 1 hr. of it 1 stars
12/11/04 Suzz so-so acting; terrible screenplay;a 'message' only a 20/30 something could find revelatory 2 stars
12/10/04 I I 1 stars
12/08/04 Dirt Whore beautiful...I want to eat Natalie's ass 5 stars
12/06/04 Gary Not bad......Portman is hotter then ever! Good acting; poor script! 3 stars
12/06/04 Jimmy Kustes For a mainstream movie it had a very indie feel 4 stars
12/05/04 Donna I 4 stars
12/05/04 Kristina Williams I want Natalie to give me a pole lesson...PRONTO. 5 stars
12/04/04 Monica I couldn't appreciate this film. It was too filthy I had to remove myself from the theater 2 stars
12/02/04 Ratana Predicable, simular to other movies. 3 stars
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  03-Dec-2004 (R)
  DVD: 29-Mar-2005



Directed by
  Mike Nichols

Written by
  Patrick Marber

  Natalie Portman
  Julia Roberts
  Jude Law
  Clive Owen

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