CLOSER (Mike Nichols, 2004)
CLOSER covers four years in the tangled affairs between two couples in London. Natalie Portman and Jude Law are Alice and Dan, who meet when she is struck by a car. Julia Roberts and Clive Owen play Anna and Larry, whose inadvertent meeting leads to a long-term relationship. Eventually Dan and Anna’s trysts come to light, which leads to interpersonal warfare that will scar all four.
While the four protagonists of CLOSER successfully engage in physical intimacy, they are incapable of making emotional connections. Director Mike Nichols’ film of Patrick Marber’s play keeps the characters distant when sharing the same space, whether it’s through a camera, an internet sex chat room, or a strip club’s private room. For these people, love means conquest and possession, with each person constantly evaluating their power over their partner. Nichols’ most lauded films, such as WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? and CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, scrutinize sexual politics with the same detachment found in CLOSER. The dialogue is often lacerating, as lovers wield words like lashes, striking out to get what they desire. None of the characters are sympathetic, but they’re always compelling to watch, much to the credit of these four actors. Portman gives the most textured performance. She uncovers layers of ferocity and vulnerability unseen in anything she’s done previously. Owen casually alternates between charm and menace with great skill. Roberts does some of her most subtle work. A well-directed, well-acted film, CLOSER'S characters bare their teeth and their souls.
(Review first aired on the December 7, 2004 NOW PLAYING)