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CLOSER (R) (2004)

Sony Pictures

Official Site

Director: Mike Nichols

Producers: Cary Brokaw, John Calley, Robert Fox, Mike Nichols, Scott Rudin

Written by: Patrick Marber

Cast: Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Julia Roberts, Clive Owen


As if we hadn’t already seen enough of the ubiquitous Jude Law, here he is again, playing a tortured romantic. Because of his and Julia Roberts’ name on the billing, I assumed Closer would be a typical romantic chick flick, complete with sappy dialogue and bittersweet, if not happy ending. I was wrong. Closer is about relationships, sure, but romance? Not quite. Sappy? Absolutely not.

Closer is an edgy commentary on the interactions of people in terms of sex and love. It was originally written as a play, also by Patrick Marber, which made its debut on the London stage in 1997. The play won various awards, including the Laurence Olivier/BBC Award for Best New Play, and was later made into a Broadway production. The film’s theater roots are visible through the use of only four main characters (everyone else is just part of the backdrop, populating the city, etc.), and the way the passage of time is indicated through the dialogue (e.g. “We’ve been seeing each other for a year now.”). Though the focus on only four characters adapts seamlessly to the screen, the issue of time can be jarring at first to moviegoers accustomed to seeing subtitles that read “one year later.” What makes it more confusing is that throughout the four-year span of the story, the characters continue to wear the same clothes, have generally the same hairstyle, and give no visual clues as to a timeline.

We don’t know too much about any of the characters except their occupations. Alice (Portman), an ex-stripper from New York who came to London to escape a relationship, plans to drift about with no real goals in mind. When she first arrives, she meets literally by accident Dan (Law), an obituary writer for a London newspaper. They end up living together, and Dan is apparently so inspired by her that he writes a book based on Alice’s life. However, while taking a portrait shot for the cover of said book, Dan falls in love with the photographer, Anna (Roberts), and becomes obsessed with her. When she declines a relationship with him, Dan sets up a practical joke by pretending to be Anna in an online chat room. In a strange twist of events, after the real Anna meets Dan’s online correspondent Larry (Owen), Anna and Larry unexpectedly fall for each other. Later, Larry meets Alice, and is mesmerized by her until he remembers he is with Anna.

Closer is a movie about loneliness and deception and the pain of relationships. It is about not knowing what makes oneself happy, or knowing but not being able to achieve it. The sweetest moments occur only when two people first meet each other, when it seems that all the problems of the world have been solved. Beyond the beginning, the relationship becomes one of doubt and dissatisfaction, complete with crude and angry dialogue. The movie is about the meeting of strangers and how being in a relationship doesn’t necessarily mean that two people are no longer strangers. No character in Closer is particularly likeable, and the story is never about rooting for two people to get together, as in romantic movies. A feel-good love story this is not.

—Kelly Hsu

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

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