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Posted to Movies at 01:01 PM on Apr 18, 2005

2004. Sony Pictures. Directed by Mike Nichols. Starring Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Clive Owen and Natalie Portman.

Closer is like a toddler who has learned a new swear word. It goes for maximum shock value deliberately and doesn't stop for an hour and a half. You can practically hear screenwriter Patrick Marber (who also wrote the play the film is based on) giggling on the soundtrack: "Look how naughty I am! I'm using the F-word! Look! I'm using it again! Watch, two dudes are having a dirty IM conversation! Hee hee! I'm so naughty!".

Just like with The Piano ten years ago, I'll probably never decide whether or not I enjoyed this movie. The first hour and twenty minutes is a pointless exercise in profanity and backstabbing. The four main characters are the most horrible, self-centered people in all of cinematic history. They do really evil things to each other and they curse like merchant marines. I may as well have been watching Jerry Springer. But the last twenty minutes pull everything together so nicely and are so clever that it almost makes me forget what a waste of time the last hour has been.


Because of you take away the cussing and stripping and cheating and Julia Roberts' pout, you've got nothing, really. The degree of the horror that the people inflict on each other is what makes the film noteworthy. Otherwise, you're asking yourself: what kind of dumbass leaves hunky, tall, dark doctor Larry (Clive Owen) for sniveling, creepy girly-man Dan (Jude Law)? And why do we care? Because Julia Roberts' character, Anna, isn't even interesting enough to puzzle over. All she does is waffle between these two guys. That's all she does for an hour and a half. We see slightly more from Alice (Natalie Portman, who I am kind of sick of seeing but she's not bad here). I've never seen the stage play, but I'm thinking it must be about an hour longer and tells us more about the four characters.

I don't know how I feel about Julia Roberts. If asked, I'll say that I like her and am a fan of her work. But then I'll see something with her in it and feel really ripped off. Closer was no exception. Although, I do feel that Anna is closer to her real personality than any of her romcom characters. Which is not to say I think she's a bad person; I just think she's not as perky and sassy as Hollywood would like us to believe.


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