Rakesh's movie talk
Closer (2004)

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Directed by Mike Nichols
Written by Patrick Marber (based on his own play)
Starring Natalie Portman, Clive Owen, Jude Law and Julia Roberts.

By Shalini Nayar


Let's start this review session with something saucy. Closer is an effort from legendary director Mike Nichols who directed a very young Dustin Hoffman in the classic The Graduate. But make no mistake, these two movies are a world apart. Closer is essentially a sex drama, acted out by 4 very different and distinctive characters namely Alice (Natalie Portman), Dan (Jude Law), Anna (Julia Roberts) and Larry (Clive Owen). Set in contemporary London, this drama offers eloquent dialogues (“What's so great about the truth? Try lying for a change - it's the currency of the world”), some peppered with vulgarity and crude language but it tricks you into not minding it at all.


Alice is a New York stripper, who currently is a Londoner after leaving her boyfriend behind. Dan is an obituarist, who creates interesting shorthands for the deceased. Anna is an American professional photographer, separated, and goes to London Aquarium all alone on afternoons to photograph strangers. Larry is a dermatologist, who is really the most innocent character (also the most ferocious) among all of them to be roped in into this hoopla. Roberts, in my opinion, is a miscast in the film, she looks lifeless, uninterested and forced as Anna. Portman plays her part with ease, as with Law. Owen is the best of them all, bringing cruelty, honesty and innocence to his powerful character.


This brutally honest movie flows with scenes that are months or years apart. Rather unusual, but it still feels continual. After a fateful meeting on a London Street, Dan and Alice hook up amidst all their quirks. Fast forward a few years and we find Dan in Anna's studio, being photographed for his upcoming novel. Sexual tension occurs, and we find them getting intimate right before Alice comes to meet Dan. Smelling a rat, Alice figures out their fresh secret liaison but never tells Dan her discovery but Anna is dumbfounded when confronted. Having too much time on his hands, Dan decides to go to a porn chatroom and disguise himself as a woman and finds his victim who happens to be a doctor. Enter Larry. It's afterhours in his clinic, and he decides to get down and dirty with his chat partner. Purpotrating jest, Dan introduces himself as Anna and asks Larry to meet him (rather her) at the London Aquarium the following day. True enough, Anna sits there innocently admiring the fishes when Larry comes along to start off a very awkward conversation. They soon realize that they've been had and the culprit is Dan. 4 months go by in a nanosecond, and Anna is having her opening night of her exhibition. This time we see something brewing between Alice and Larry (who has become Anna's boyfriend), and the revival between Anna and Dan.


What happens after this is we find the four characters throughout the months and years try to cope and understand the meaning of being in love and in a relationship. Some of them trivialize it, some mock it, some deliberately hurt the other, some deliberately settle in a relationship to get hurt. It's a vicious cycle. The characters propel us to ask ourselves: What is love? Do you believe in love? And if so, how do you recognize? When do you recognize it? In the end we are left to believe love and devotion can be very conveniently manipulated, if you give in to the things that are easily resisted.


Clive Owen was awarded Best Supporting Actor and Natalie Portman was awarded Best Supporting Actress at the recent 2005 Golden Globes Awards. Both are also up for Oscars under the same category