2004
Rated: R for strong sexual content, adult themes, and graphic language.
Genre: Drama Romance
Directed By: Mike Nichols
Running Time: 1:44
Review by: Felix Vasquez Jr.
Review Date: 6/28/05
CLOSER

 

I assume there will ultimately be two gut reactions from audiences that decide to rent this one night expecting an erotic but pleasing drama: one will be utter disgust and anger, and the other will be utter disgust and anger guided to immense pleasure for its utter bravery in being so. I'm in the second party. If you're expecting something from
this film that will leave you with some essence of a positive message then you're grossly mistaken. This film is so utterly despicable it may as well have been directed by Neil Labute who has a knack for directing shocking negative portraits of life, but I sat in the viewing of the film cringing, gasping, and just groaning in disgust at the actions of each and every character in the film, and I just couldn't get enough of it.

People I talked to about this hated it because it was so mean-spirited, but that's what inevitably made me take such a fancy to this. "Closer" is such a magnificent portrait of real life and relationships, and it takes its chance to anger the audience with its raw emotions that aren't pretty. But this is art! The plot is honest and realistic. The characters do naughty things and don't own up to them, they have flaws, they have faults, sometimes they're pricks, most times they're pricks but it's real, it's blunt and I loved it. Every single character in this film are despicable. It often times was reprehensible, disgusting, and utterly despicable to watch and I just couldn't get enough of it, because it has that sense of voyeur human beings are so akin to in this age of mindless reality shows, it's that sense of torture we can't turn away from. It actually shocked me when I viewed reaction from its audience who hated this but were perfectly willing to watch crap like "Fear Factor" and "Temptation Island".

This is art; who says all art has to make sense or make you feel good? Sometimes art depresses you, sometimes it invokes darkness in you, and sometimes it's human nature looking you right back in to the face, and it's incredible. If kindness is humanity, well, so is cruelty and deception, and people will hate this because it is indeed humanity looking you in the face. Nichols never shies away from showing us cruelty in its true form with its deadliest weapon: heartbreak, and for that I have to give him his rightful credit. Watch films like "Irreversible", "The Shape of Things", "In The Company Of Men", works of art that were swept under the rug because they exposed the worst of what humanity had to offer unapologetically, as does this film. Mann puts humanity up for show in this utterly excellent film and it was everything I hoped for it to be and a lot more. If the plot doesn't do it for you, then watch for the excellent cast of actors that I could not look away from.

The performances here are utterly top-notch with performances that went credited rightfully. I'm a big fan of Jude Law who is a very underrated actor, and he gives a truly good performance here, but the real power lies within the performances of Clive Owen and Natalie Portman. Owen is simply excellent in this and gives the best performance in the film. He's powerful in his role and excels among the entire cast giving a standout performance. Natalie Portman is stunning in this and Portman is somber, though I don't buy her as a stripper, in spite of that she gives a very low-key performance enabling her to hold her own against the heavyweights while achieving her own individual presence amidst the beautiful scenery and truly excellent writing.

The screenplay here is simply magnificent, the actors dispense the dialogue like they're dancing, and the dance is so elegant because the actors are so skilled and deliver the lines like poetry at an almost rapid fire pace with some of the smoothest dialogue I've seen in years. There are some very memorable moments during the film that were so well done from the charming chatting scene with Owen and Law, to the meeting with Owen and Portman's characters in the gallery. From the shocking surprise ending that makes you re-examine the entire film and what you've just seen, to the utterly cruel story, the ultimate message from Nichols is that even the players get played eventually, and Nichols achieves such a great work of art.

My bias against Julia Roberts not withstanding, her role is incredibly mediocre. Roberts whose films have mostly consisted of crowd pleasers doesn't seem to know how to handle a character of such depth and despicable nature and lags behind the other three heavyweights in terms of emotion, weight, and utter skill and just can't seem to hold her own against everyone else. While her character is equally as unlikable as everyone else here she just doesn't add up to everyone here, ultimately contributes nothing, and becomes the least interesting slice of the pie. And let's talk about that song, that utterly irritating and very distracting song from Damien Rice is possibly one of the most idiotic and inane theme songs I've heard since "Don't Forsake Me" in "High Noon" and it was almost a deal breaker for me. Thank god it only showed up during the opening and closing of the film.

Roberts ultimately contributes nothing to a rather incredible piece of filmmaking courtesy of Mike Nichols who simply stuns with a beautiful production, excellent script, unconventional and rather hateful story, and excellent acting all around. This is well worth the viewing if you're into something that doesn't follow conventions and I ate it up with a spoon.

  • Cate Blanchett was originally signed to play the role of Anna, but due to her second pregnancy she had to drop out of the film.
  • Clive Owen played the role of Dan in the original stage production.
  • The opera that Dan and Anna are late for and you can hear in the background is "Cosi Fan Tutte" - this also deals with themes of two couples who swap partners.
  • Anna's exhibition is the only time all four characters are in the same room.

 

 

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