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Monday, December 13, 2004

Movie Review: Closer 

Closer is a strange film. It teases you from the outset, and just when it starts to draw you in, it pushes you away, only to beckon you back again.

Closer tells the story of four individuals, though there's no real story. The film both charms and alarms with an intriguing stew of attraction, ego, jealousy and deceit. Its characters lead intertwined lives, as they lead each other on in search of greener grass.

At its heart the film explores the depth of love as it relates to sexual attraction and truth. The truth, though, is not always easy to find, especially when you deal with four complex characters that intentionally blur it.

Closer is at times hard to watch. It's coarse language could make a sailor blush, and its raw sexuality will smack you in the face more than a few times, which is somewhat surprising given its lack of nudity (sorry fellas, you don't get to see Natalie Portman in her birthday suit).

With no significant plot to speak of, Closer relies on snappy banter to tell its story -- that and the characters' personalities. It's a mostly linear film, but the timeline is still skewed, because the story glosses over large chunks of time -- it's more of a series of vignettes than a fluid story. Sometimes that results in a disjointed viewing experience, but it seemed to work in this case. Because Closer preys on the characters' flaws, the negative aspects of their respective relationships (i.e., the parts that get shown), are infinitely more important than the "good times" that are omitted.

I assume that it will draw comparisons with both Garden State and Eternal Sunshine for the similarities among the three, in regard to love and relationships. I can see some of those bonds, but this is a wholy different film than either of those. In some ways it does "work" better, but it's not nearly as optimistic as they are. Closer is a bleak film with bleak characters, and whether or not you like it will probably depend on whether or not you like the players.

Portman radiates in her bleakness. You could describe her character as a more world-wary version of the wise-beyond-her-years girl that she portrayed in Beautiful Girls. She complements her whiny beau, played by Jude Law, who in turn complement his foil, both in personality and plot, portayed by Clive Owen, Julia Roberts' character completes the foursome, and is, in my opinion, the movie's one flaw. She's a wretched character, played by a wretched actress, with no feeling or depth whatsoever. In a character-driven film that's dependent on, wait for it, the characters, Closer suffers a bit. But the numbers don't lie: three our of four ain't bad.



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