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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 Rob Gonsalves

"Well-acted but emotionally inert."
3 stars

When Mike Nichols made his early trilogy of marital-discord films -- 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,' 'The Graduate,' and 'Carnal Knowledge' -- he was in his late thirties, and had probably been through a few battles of the sexes himself. Nichols' latest, 'Closer,' finds him at age 73 and a bit gentler, even if the source material -- Patrick Marber's 1997 play of the same name -- is harsher and more profane than anything Nichols has directed to date.

Nichols has had a bumpy couple of decades; for every Primary Colors or The Birdcage, there's a What Planet Are You From? or Regarding Henry. But this eternally inconsistent director has been working on HBO lately, helming the acclaimed Wit and Angels in America, and Closer is like one of those films -- it's only as good as its cast. Fortunately, it's a good cast.

The movie spans something like four years in the lives of four people -- two men, two women -- who engage in various pairings designed to strip the characters to their cores. At the start, obituary writer Dan (Jude Law) spots radiant stripper Alice (Natalie Portman) on a London street; she is struck by a taxi, he whisks her to the hospital, and, presumably, a relationship is born. No sooner do we process that information than we leap forward, without warning or notation, to a period when Dan and Alice have been together for a while; he has now written a book, and is looking for someone else. He finds Anna (Julia Roberts), a photographer who takes his book-jacket photo. They kiss; she backs away; he can't stop thinking about her.

Obsessed with Anna, Dan arranges for her to meet a doctor named Larry (Clive Owen); the method by which Dan does this is best left for the non-prudish viewer to discover. Anna and Larry actually hit it off, and -- again, somewhere outside the movie's margins -- they get married. But now Anna is obsessed with Dan. And Dan is about to inform Alice that he's in love with Anna. Poor Larry, drawn into this by deception to begin with, can only fume and despair, and Alice takes off into the night. There's more, but it doesn't really matter. This isn't actually reality -- it's an actors'-scene reality. Each of the four players gets a Great Scene, with Clive Owen having a clear edge in two moments when he lets us see the former working-class tough inside the domesticated doctor Larry.

Anyone expecting more than that -- or led to expect more than that from the film's raft of award nominations and critical bouquets -- is likely to be disappointed. Closer is what I'd comfortably refer to as a "piece." Aside from a clever ceiling view of Larry and Alice facing each other in the champagne room of a strip club, as filmmaking the movie is rather flat. Nichols isn't terribly interested in razzle-dazzle here, and indeed, compared to his other recent feature films, Closer has a scrappy independent look and feel. He gives the actors space to seethe at each other. Roberts, looking freeze-dried in her character's self-disgust, closes her features off from the camera but has enough natural charisma to get the audience to lean forward and come to her. Portman sells a couple of heartbroken speeches, and is effective as the most mystifying character, a self-described "waif" who seems to exist only to bring out the protective streak in men. (And women, too -- an early, quiet confrontation between Alice and Anna is played with subtlety and precision.) The men are fools, led by the nose and libido (and insecurity) away from common sense, and Jude Law shows us the cracks in Dan's armor, never thick to begin with, while Clive Owen drags Larry through degradation and bitter triumph.

These people are essentially abstract -- theatrical constructs created to make friction. The characters are always confronting one another and demanding honesty, then sorely regretting the demand when it's fulfilled. For whatever reason, the movie skips the play's tragic final-scene revelation about one of the characters, turning it into a harmless "meet cute" earlier in the film.

Anyone telling you 'Closer' dispenses stark wisdom about life and love is a bit too easily impressed by the rare movie in which grown-ups actually have conversations instead of blowing each other up. But the movie is softened by Mike Nichols' affection for the characters -- or, rather, their dramatically abrasive potential.

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originally posted: 01/27/07 08:39:08
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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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