Based on the Tony-winning play by Patrick Marber, Closer is a raw, affecting and brutally honest portrait of four strangers whose burgeoning relationships intertwine with one another.
Marber, who also wrote the screenplay, describes Closer as ''a love story. It's about other things, [too]--sexual jealousy, the male gaze, the lies we tell ourselves and those we are most intimate with, the ways in which people find themselves through using others. But in the end, it's a nice simple love story. And as with most love stories, things go wrong '' Boy, do they ever. In this case, the ''love stories'' revolve around two couples: Dan (Jude Law), a frustrated novelist who falls for quirky stripper Alice (Natalie Portman) after a chance meeting on a London street, and Larry (Clive Owen), a boorish dermatologist who falls for esoteric photographer Anna (Julia Roberts) after a chance meeting in a London aquarium. Through happenstance, these four people manage to intermix their relationships, falling in and out of love with each other at an alarming and brutal speed over the course of a few years. Giving away who ends up with whom would spoil the fun, but one thing's for certain--just like in real life, these characters are never quite sure if they are truly happy with the final choices they have made.
This movie is an actor's dream--as most plays-turned-movies are--and all four of Closer's protagonists rise to the occasion. Here, Law's streak of mediocre films finally comes to an end, and he definitely has saved the best for last. In a switch from Alfie's confident lothario, Law's Dan is a bespectacled, soft-spoken fellow who wears his heart on his sleeve as his love vacillates between Alice and then, Anna. As Anna, Roberts is Dan's counterpart, bouncing just as impulsively between Dan and Larry, but playing it far more reserved and aloof. It's a welcomed departure from Roberts' usual perkiness--and probably her strongest performance to date. It is Portman and Owen, however, who steal the show. Besides a face that could launch a thousand ships, the all-grown up Portman is brilliant as the tough-as-nails stripper who is secretly oh-so-fragile and the most honest of the four, while Owen, best known to American audiences as King Arthur, roars on screen as the self-assured Larry, a character so full of passion and bravado it's hard to take your eyes off him. Oscar should come calling.
Backed by a major studio and featuring an all-star cast, Closer still manages to maintain that indie, unpretentious feel--which is just the way director Mike Nichols, who made his name making small, powerful gems about human relationships such as The Graduate and Carnal Knowledge, likes it. And much like the gritty We Don't Live Here Anymore, a similarly themed indie released earlier this year, Closer doesn't get sugarcoated. The raw language will more than likely hit a nerve, and anyone who has ever been in love will spot a few of their own characteristics and experiences. As Nichols explains, ''Closer concerns itself with the fact that, in love, we remember beginnings and endings and tend to edit it out the middles '' Being that the film is based on a play, the scenes tend to be over dramatized in parts, but each juicy, intense moment still holds you completely riveted to your seat, as the four characters continue to raise the stakes and keep you guessing who is going to betray who next.
As a superbly acted, beautifully written character piece, Closer gets about as close as it gets to showing how love sometimes makes people do awful things to each other.