Monday, December 06, 2004

Movie Review: Closer (2004)

A film by Mike Nichols

"Closer" is a film about beginnings and endings. We are given a look into how relationships begin, and how they end. Very little of what happens in between is ever seen on screen. Because of this, there are time gaps in the story of up to a year, but after the first gap and you figure out just what the structure is, it is barely noticeable. "Closer" begins (appropriately enough) with the meeting of Alice (Natalie Portman) and Dan (Jude Law). Alice is walking down a London sidewalk. Dan is following her, observing. It isn't clear if he is stalking her, or just admiring her beauty. When Alice looks the wrong way when crossing the road, she is American, she is struck by a car. Dan is right there to get her help and this begins a flirtation and their relationship.

Dan meets Alice. Dan meets Anna. Anna meets Larry. Dan leaves Alice. Anna leaves Larry. Larry meets Alice. To call "Closer" a romantic triangle would be to do the film a disservice, not to mention that there are four people involved in this "triangle". The romantic pairings up and hooking up is the method these characters use to try to fulfill something that is lacking in their lives. But the real point here is the conversation that comes about because of it. The conversation that happens at the beginning and the ending of a relationship is the most interesting, and the most intense because the emotions are heightened and more focused, both with joy and with pain. The dialogue is sharp, incredibly intelligent (I've never come across conversation like this before in my life), it feels realistic, flirtatious, and very sexual. In particular, the dialogue at the endings of relationships is quite graphic.

"Closer" is all about character and humanity, and not so much about giving a traditional plot. The four main actors here do a fantastic job in "Closer" and collectively give the performance of the year. Natalie Portman is likely going to pick up a Best Supporting Actress Nomination (if not win) for her portrayal of Alice, the all grown up but still somewhat childish waif of a stripper. Clive Owen, however, steals the show (as does Portman) with every scene he is in. He is passionate, intense, and perfect. As is, I would suggest, this movie. It is not an upbeat movie, but it has such a warmth to it even as the characters are all treating each other really badly. This is a very impressive movie and one which I sincerely hope gets a Best Picture nomination come Oscar time.

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