Home | Reviews | Exclusive Writings | Great Links | Miscellaneous | FAQ | Contact Us

Closer /

Rated: R

Starring: Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Clive Owen, Michael Haley

Directed by: Mike Nichols

Produced by: John Calley, Cary Brokaw, Robert Fox, Mike Nichols, Scott Rudin
Written by:
Patrick Marber
Distributor: Columbia Pictures



     One negative can overshadow one hundred positives, and so proves Mike Nichols’ Closer, a movie which contains some of the most contrived dialogue in years. It is packed with terrific performances, with those of rising star Natalie Portman and the popular Jude Law being the best, in addition to some very provocative direction. However, when the characters converse—one of the things they do for most of the movie’s duration—the film comes across as more of an over-the-top and laughably stupid cinematic exercise than an intelligent and observant character study. Sex and affairs are serious business, but when described in the graphically overblown light of Closer, they seem profoundly silly. The movie could seriously qualify as a classic dark comedy.

     The opening sequence of the film serves as case-in-point that Closer would probably be better off with its dialogue tracks muted. Amidst the apocalyptic title song, which works immensely well, at first, but becomes increasingly annoying as the film progresses, Dan (Law) and Alice (Portman) face each other as they each walk along a London street, thinking that they will soon intersect and never look back on the moment in time again. But, the audience, of course, knows otherwise. Dan stares at Alice and Alice stares at Dan, both of them hypnotized and flirtatious, as Nichols uses a cooling slow-motion-like technique. Consumed and distracted by her vision of him, Alice is hit by an approaching taxi. Quick to help her, Dan rushes to the scene, and as she comes out of unconsciousness with only a few minor scratches, seconds later, the words “Hello, stranger,” pour carefully and vulnerably from her lips and into his eardrums. Law and Portman share chemistry and the style they immerse themselves in is accomplished, but let’s be honest with ourselves, here. Sure, the comment is made in a partially tongue-in-cheek way, confirming that Alice and Dan have been communicating through body language for the entire scene long, but, seriously, “Hello, Stranger”? “Hello, Stranger”? “Hello, Stranger”?

     After a trip to the emergency room, Alice and Dan develop a serious, albeit ambiguous, relationship. Later, they meet Anna (Julia Roberts), a photographer who takes both of their pictures, and eventually her fate-sprung husband, Larry (Clive Owen), a dermatologist. During Closer’s duration, each of the four cheats on the other; cross-cutting affairs within the quadrangle become commonplace in their lives. Not to mention that, in the interest of keeping their relationships “truthful”—which here really means more extensively backstabbing one another—questions about partners’ sexual habits, when cheating, often arise. If dealt with realistically, scenes containing these exchanges could’ve been heartbreaking and revelatory. However, in the hands of writer Patrick Marber, who adapted the screenplay from his own play, they only seem artificial. In particular, a conversation between Larry and Anna, which includes a detailed account of a session of intercourse she has with Dan, is an eye-roller of catastrophic proportions.

     The reason why the lines that the characters recite are so inept is because they are written for the sole purpose of sounding pleasant to the viewer’s ear. With them, Marber creates a rat-tat-tat rhythm with a stunning command of the English language. In this, he sacrifices any hope of exposing real, raw emotion, which is essential to this type of film’s success.  How many real people who behave in as despicable a nature as the characters in Closer can actually speak so eloquently? Not many, if any. I’m not even prepared to ponder how all four of them just so happen to be brilliant, deep thinkers, and express such amazingly well. If it was written in a novel, maybe the clever, talky dialogue of Closer might make for an imaginative experience. However, when coming from the mouths of actual actors, it just seems stupid. As a result of this, I didn’t feel motivated to even attempt to understand the characters’ various motives and feelings, rarely allowing me to become involved in the movie. For much of the duration, I sat back in my chair and thought about how anyone, character or living person, could become as big of a loser as one of the four central figures in Closer. Marber certainly has some great ideas, but his dialogue misrepresents them.

     I can admire the achievements of certain individuals in Closer (mainly Portman’s, Law’s, and Owen’s), but cannot help but wonder why they chose to participate in the making of a movie that was, essentially, dead on arrival. Did they not read the script before signing onto the project? Perhaps they simply wanted to participate in a film that had the “courage” to discuss issues that are seldom talked about in pieces of the medium, not realizing that Closer’s explicitness would ultimately only add to its ridiculousness? Whatever their motives, they have wasted their precious efforts on a blatant and puerile attempt at exploring sex and deceit, which will only be remembered for its repugnant dishonesty towards a touchy subject.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (12.28.2004)

Back to Home
The Bucket Review's Rating Scale