Whoa baby! This film is sure to embolden the hatred men and women have for one another in the (sometimes) rotten game of love! “Closer” (2004), directed by Mike Nichols, is often compared to his brilliant movie “Carnal Knowledge”(1971), and rightfully so; both movies involve love triangles of sorts, but “Carnal Knowledge” contains characters you like whereas “Closer” forces the viewer to feel a sort of ambivalence towards its characters, so you have to stand back and wait to see the whole picture unfold before you go all in with any of them.
Although it would never be recognized as such at first glance, “Closer” may very well be one of the best movies ever made about love. Brutally honest and unrelenting, this film will hit closer to home with most people than any of the “fairy tale” love stories have in the past.
What we have here are four people caught in a crisscrossing of confusing feelings of love. Alice (Natalie Portman, Best Supporting Actress nominee) who falls in love with Dan (Jude Law) after a unique meet-cute which begins the movie, and is an example of some very fine film making. Then Dan meets Anna (Julia Roberts in her best role) and falls for her while he is still with Alice. Before Dan and Anna have a chance to get together, Anna meets Larry (Clive Owen, Best Supporting Actor nominee) in another quirky meet-cute (which was inadvertently set up by Dan), and end up married.
This set up sounds like it could be the beginning of a screwball comedy, but I assure you, it’s not that…
By the time it is all said and done, both men will have slept with both women, but that’s not what the film is about. How they all arrive in these misguided passionate scenarios, and the order and number of times they all happen, is what drives this film’s plot.
And speaking of fine film making, mid way through the film we get to witness a brilliant juxtaposition of two breakups taking place. In each case watch how the men relinquish control of the situation for different reasons, and yielding very different results.
Clive Owen is amazing in his role as Larry, especially in the aforementioned breakup scene. He seems to be the best of the four characters at this dirty love game. Watch the way he uses Guerrilla warfare tactics that do not always initially get him what he wants, but always give him the upper hand in the long run. In a movie chalked full of great scenes, there is one involving Larry and Alice in a private room of a strip club. Alice is a stripper dancing for Larry and carefully extracting lots of money from him (as women in that arena are ought to do). Note the way this makes Alice feel as she trots around with an arrogance that makes her seem superior to Larry. Only at the end of the scene do we notice that Larry will not be made a fool, and with some snappy coarse dialogue, he puts Alice right in her place. And I promise you this: Most men will be staring in to Larry’s eyes at the closing push in of the scene, in hopes of seeing what he sees.
This film is not for everyone. Most will watch and be disgusted with all the characters. Others, who are more honest with themselves, will watch “Closer” and see a true-to-life character study of love and danger, and the mutual exclusiveness of those two words. I implore you to watch this with an open mind; try to recognize the nastiness of the characters as a normalcy. If you can do that, this will be an enjoyable film for you. Right up until the end, you’ll realize you don’t really know that much about people at all; even those closest to you.
NOTE: The song ‘Blower’s Daughter’ by Damien Rice bookends this movie in the opening and ending scenes. It is one of the best uses of a song I have ever seen. ENJOY!