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Directed by Mike Nichols.
Written by Patrick Marber.  Based on the play by Patrick Marber.
Starring Jude Law, Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen.
Release Year:  2004
Review Date:  12/3/04


I haven't heard the word "cunt" in an American film this many times ever.  And, in general, you don't get to hear language this raw in most American films because we can be prudish bastards when it comes to frank sexual talk onscreen.  But, as the new film "Closer" is based on a play, the reliance on all of this dialogue leaves us with a movie so chatty that it feels a fair bit exhausted, leaving me wanting just a little bit of action.

No, not sexual action, just something to break up all of this talking, because as it is, the line readings of "Closer" run too fluidly to be believed.  The movie follows the intersecting lives of four people in London--a waif from New York named Alice (Natalie Portman), who meets an obituary writer named Dan (Jude Law) over a car accident, who in turn meets a photographer named Anna (Julia Roberts), who ultimately meets a doctor named Larry (Clive Owen).  Everybody seems to be interested in everybody else, there's lots of drama, there's a whole lot of talking, and there's a whole lot of sex talk.  I would tell you more, but, you know.

Mike Nichols, the super director that has been doing mostly excellent work over the last 40 years (including "The Graduate", "Silkwood", "The Birdcage" and last year's teledrama "Angels in America"), directed "Closer" from a stage play by Patrick Marber; it feels just as minimalist as any great play, right down to the fact that there is no supporting cast, the scenes are generally extended plays between two actors each time and the score is muted at almost every turn to let the performers do their thing.  So thanks to the direction, I thought the acting was very strong, particularly from Owen, as the doctor that meets Anna by chance only to see his life turned upside down by all that happens throughout the film.  But, I felt that in many cases, the dialogue just felt a bit too performed, like the perfect give-and-take of the wordplay or the sometimes-contrived emotional state of the women as they take their lumps.

Of course, I thought this was great in three particularly great scenes--(SPOILERS TO FOLLOW) when Larry comes home from his business trip to learn what happened while he was gone; a VIP-room scene where Larry drops big cash to speak with Alice; and the inevitable confrontation between Larry and Dan near the end of the film.  Man, I loved these moments; strong acting, great lines, tense, the whole thing.  But, then you balance these out with those sometimes corny scenes between Dan and Alice; I know that Portman is a great actress, but she just didn't seem to ever make me believe that she was on a level that would make Law's Dan character ever stay with her for any length of time.

(I will also admit, for the first time in history, that I liked Julia Roberts in a movie.  Great character, great evolution of her character, finally didn't play smiley, hey-how-ya-doing, everybody-loves-me-in-some-way type and it worked brilliantly.)

Some scenes just run on too long--an internet chat sequence seems to take, I don't know, FOREVER--and some, like the film's ending, really do feel fake.  But then, you get something like Law's great, believable, even kind of touching reaction when he confronts Larry near the end of the movie.  So up and down for me.  I wanted to like this more, but even now, there was no real emotional impact for me about love, sex, relationships, breakups, whatever.  Just felt like a movie.

So, go and see "Closer"; it's a good time, and occasionally eye-opening.  But, I thought there would be more, it was just okay.  It also didn't help that I felt like I just saw this film a few weeks ago in the form of "We Don't Live Here Anymore."

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09