5 December 2004 | gregsrants
Should have been titled Eyes Wide Open
Imagine your partner has cheated on you and you get the chance to confront them and have them openly answer all the questions that just rip your heart out of your chest. Not the standard questions that we all see on television dramas, but the questions that will induce deep emotional wounds.
'Was he better than me?'
'Did you have sex in our house?'
'Did he make love to you differently?'
These are questions that should remain in an impermeable vault. No response will be satisfying to the inquirer. But these are exactly some of the questions that are thrown at the audience when two of the four major characters in Mike Nichols new film Closer admit to their infidelity.
The film focuses on four individuals, Alice (Natalie Portman) who meets Dan (Jude Law) after being hit by car on a London street; Anna (Julia Roberts), a divorced photographer who ends up meeting Larry (Clive Owen) in a way that is far too interesting to reveal here.
In fact, this movie is so character and story driven that it benefits the viewer from watching it play out rather than spelled out, so I don't intend on offering many plot points as part of this review.
What I can say is that this is a good film that gets great performances from all its leads. Clive Owen in particular gives us a suave dermatologist with fits of rage that border on the violent. His performance is mesmerizing and his presence is commanding in along any of the other three more commonly known stars. When he confronts Anna after coming home from a business trip, he is enraged, hurt, inquisitive and broken hearted. Being able to convey a cavalcade of thoughts and emotions in such a powerful scene reminds us of the promise he conveyed in his first mainstream film, Croupier back in 1998.
And while Larry works out what is to be his new life of bachelor ship, Alice equally confronts her betrayer with raw emotion and a lack of understanding.
Natalie Portman, like Owen is on the brink of stardom that should have both their trophy cases full of statues before their careers are over. Asked to hold her own amongst strong actors twenty years her senior, Portman matures in her role as Alice and becomes the pin-up 'girl to watch' for the next decade.
Based on a screenplay by Patrick Marber (adapted from his own play), the movie plays out like a stage performance. There are primarily only four speaking parts and very few sets and location shots.
The result is a very strong-dialogs film. Very strong. Those that see the trailers and expect to see Oscar contenders Roberts and Law have flightless banter, be warned. Director Mike Nichols incorporates explicit details about their sexual encounters with every foul word in George Carlins dictionary being paraded in rapid-fire progression.
But hell, we're all adults here, and if you can get beyond the utter deception that almost every character tries to hide, yet reveal, yet hide (you'll have to see it to understand), you will find a real good movie that could have been titled Eyes Wide Open.
So, I can't recommend this as a date film, but if you are in the mood for a movie about betrayal, love, obsession, sex, pain, lust, fear, loneliness, commitment, jealousy and honesty, this might just be the Christmas movie you are looking for.