A Film Review By The Mike
|Rating:RATED R for Sexuality, Language, and Julia Roberts Talking About Ingesting Bodily Fluids.
Starring: Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Clive Owen, Natalie Portman
Directed By: Mike Nichols
If there’s ever been a bigger statement against love at first sight than Mike Nichols’ latest film, Closer, I’ve not seen it. A scathing look into the dynamics of romantic relationships and the crushing effect they can have on people, the film teeters on the brink of madness and genius at the same time. It’s one of those rare filmgoing experiences that leaves the viewer searching their head for how they feel about its suggestions, without making them think at all about the context.
Closer tells the tale of 4 star-crossed lovers in much the same way our old pal Shakespeare would have. They mix and match for one hundred minutes, like Barbie, Stacy, and Ken dolls in the hands of uninhibited grade school girls. In this case, they are Julia Roberts’ Anna, Jude Law’s Daniel, Natalie Portman’s Alice, and Clive Owen’s Larry. It took me a minute to remember all their names, and I’ve just seen the movie within the hour. They’re too generic in their characters to make them memorable as people, but they sure work well as concepts.
The film shows them meet, in different settings and at different times, throughout the years. We see one couple transfixed by a crossing of eyes that leads to an accident. We see another set up by a third party via an internet gag. The pairs cross through a strip club, and through a photo shoot, and an art show, and a dinner on the town. Each of these characters, at no more than a drop of a hat, can fall in love, or fall out of love, or fall back in love. As I said above, they’re like puppets on a string, controlled by some random force – but unlike Barbie and pals, these people aren’t made of cheap plastic.
They definitely don’t come off as soft either. Each of the four people is a victim of the human tendency to base their concept of love in their feelings of attraction or their enjoyment of the act of fornication. When they tell each other that they love them, it always seems more and more like a lie, as if their only goal is to have someone to be with, despite their personalities or their interests outside the bedroom. When the question of infidelity rears its nasty head in each of their relationships, there are never questions about words that had been said, only about acts that had been performed.
And there are answers, believe me. The script makes things come out of Julia Roberts’ mouth that I never dreamt possible. Law’s character whines and moans about his sensibility while being ultimately following the trail of his targets like a lonely puppy on the street that’s looking for a “bone” (and I don’t mean that in the “chew toy” sense of the word). Portman and Owen are the “better halves,” we think, but each dives into their own filth by film’s end, leaving each of our four characters bewildered by the feelings they can’t materialize in others. To say the characters’ experiences are a happy tale would be a bigger lie than any of the characters tell each other.
Through studying this fallacy, the human confusion between attraction and love, Closer sits as one of the most interesting works of cinema in recent memory. I can’t say this film was an enjoyable one to view, but it surely is an effective one. Most viewers probably won’t like these characters, and will probably be put off by their actions and words. But if they look closer, they might see some aspects of real people inside those lying characters, and those aspects might provide them with a viewing experience that will provoke a lot of thought about the way we all look at love and life.