Columbia Pictures presents Closer. Written by Patrick Marber. Based on his play. Running time: 101 minutes. Rated R (for sequences of graphic sexual dialogue, nudity/sexuality and language).
Four characters to make a movie. That’s all it takes. No need for a large sum of actors. Four will do just fine. Four lives. Two relationships.
Mike Nichols’ Closer is a movie about the crazy little game called love. You won’t find any sugarcoated lovey-dovey moments here. This story is a truthful interpretation of dangerous liaisons, involving four people and their dark-seeded desire to sleep with each other.
Seduction and empowerment are two qualities one must look for when watching these four interact. They can appear sincere, almost playful with one another, while at the same time lying to get one of them in bed.
The movie starts out as a “love at first sight” kind of tale. Jude Law plays Dan, a dead-end writer of obituaries for his London newspaper. When Dan sees Alice (Natalie Portman) as they walk towards each other through a crosswalk he opens his mouth a bit. Not a huge gap but just enough to acknowledge Alice. She replies with a smile of her own, biting her lip a little in the process. This eye-contact magnetism the two have is interrupted when Alice steps into the path of a taxicab. Waking up from her dazed state she says to Dan, “Hello Stranger.” Time passes. Dan takes a break from his drab obituary lifestyle and writes a book about his relationship with Alice. Then everything changes.
The publisher sets up a book jacket photography session with Anna (Julia Roberts). Anna is an American photographer living in London. When she isn’t taking book jacket photos, Anna spends her time photographing beautiful strangers. Dan becomes infatuated with Anna, acting like a 12-year-old in the process. More time goes by. Dan makes the unfortunate error of impersonating Anna – who he is now sleeping with – on a sex chat line. He sets up a date with Larry (Clive Owen), a stranger. When Larry arrives at the designated rendezvous, an aquarium, Anna is sitting on a bench admiring the aquatic life. He begins talking and interacting with her describing the “chat” they had the previous evening. Anna’s eyes widen as Larry gives sexual innuendos.
As the movie progresses, both Dan and Larry will have sex with both women, infrequently taking trips back to their original confidants. It makes one recall the song verse, “If you can’t love the one you want, love the one you’re with.” The desire may not always be present; but the nastiness of the four definitely is.
It’s no surprise that Clive Owen won a Golden Globe for his performance as Larry the dermatologist. His Dr. Larry character is the creme de la creme on the viciousness meter. A more suitable moniker would be Dr. Nasty. Larry is brazen as the caveman-like male who gets pleasure out of dispensing verbal cat calls. He’s not intimidated by Dan and he’s not afraid to extort personal information from Anna. Sure, Morgan Freeman may have the “big” statuette this year; but I bet Owen wasn’t far behind. Just you wait. He’ll get his time to shine. Who knows, perhaps he’ll have a martini in his hand, shaken not stirred.
Mike Nichols is an incredible director who goes through an unorthodox schedule. For the early part of the production he got the cast together and made them rehearse. Then they went on break. While on the break the actors mulled over the first rehearsal. It afforded them the opportunity to get into the minds of their characters. After the weeklong break they rehearsed again. This again allowed the actors to have a better rapport with one another on set. That’s why the characters in Closer seem so natural. Rehearsing lays everything out. The actors all know each other on a personal level when it comes time to shoot the film. We sympathize with Dan, Larry, Anna, and Alice. As sexual discussions or verbal lacerations arise we sense and understand the pain the characters are experiencing.
Closer was adapted by Patrick Marber, from his own stage play. This piece of work is unrelenting in its honest approach on the subject of relationships. Director Mike Nichols doesn’t pull any punches. Everything is visceral. Just like a car accident, you can’t turn away. The self-destructive behavior of the four characters alone is merit enough to see this film. The acting is top notch by all participants. Julia Roberts, Jude Law, and the Academy Award-nominated Natalie Portman and Clive Owen make the movie. Imagine if they cast young Hollywood idols like Ashton Kutcher as Dan or Keanu Reeves as Larry. All I can say is, “If all you can get is Ashton Kutcher and you want Jude Law…wait.”
Closer is presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 ratio that is astonishing. Since it is a Superbit release from Columbia Pictures, the detail is sharp and the colors are rich. The flesh tones of the actors are pure. No change whatsoever. Notice the blacks in the film and how profound they are; look at some of Anna’s stark photographs. Inside the strip club the array of light, airy colors – shades of pink and blonde to name a few – stimulate your eyes to no end. However, the visual presentation is downgraded a bit with some slight edge enhancement and some spots on the master print. Still, the video transfer looks just as good, if not better, than it did in theaters.
The makers of the Superbit line of DVDs gave this disc one hell of an audio presentation. The audio on the DVD is presented in both DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 formats – not to mention French. Both handle the demanding soundtrack job to perfection. Purists will probably stick with the DTS track to get the most out of their stereo systems. Since it is a dialogue driven film, most of the sound is directed from the front-end speakers. Still, there are times when surround sound comes into play. Just watch the strip club scene and you will hear Prodigy all around you. The surround sound also does a nice job of mixing ambient sounds with the rest of the audio.
The downside of having a Superbit release is that most of the disc space is reserved for improved audio and visual elements. For those expecting those deleted Natalie Portman strip scenes, well, too bad. It looks like that footage will be staying in the editor’s personal collection.
The set does come with the music video for Damien Rice’s song “The Blower’s Daughter.” This is the same song that plays when Dan and Alice have their first encounter. It is a haunting song and it sets up the mood for the entire film. The video is presented in a non-anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen format.
Nine trailers are also included on the disc. Besides the theatrical trailer for Closer, other trailers include Guess Who, the teaser for Bewitched, Hitch, Spanglish, House of Flying Daggers, The Woodsman, Being Julia, and A Love Song for Bobby Long.
Very disappointing as far as extras go. Then again, Columbia Pictures is notorious for rehashing old titles and giving them new-and-improved special editions. If it is any consolation, David Fincher’s Panic Room was first released as a Superbit title. Then came a three-disc set with a boatload of extra material. So there’s still hope.
THE INSIDE PULSE
Sex, lies, and Clive Owen’s performance. Three traits that this movie exemplifies. Closer is such an interesting film because it examines the qualms of relationships and does so in a truthful and insightful manner. This is one of the few times that I can recall that a stage play has translated so well as a film. Patrick Marber’s play joins the likes of Neil LaBute (In the Company of Men) and David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross) of whose work has succeeded in a medium beyond the stage. Yes, it would have been great to have more in-depth features – a Mike Nichols commentary, a Mike Nichols-Patrick Marber commentary, or some insight from the cast, perhaps. To have an Academy Award-nominated film treated this way is deplorable. It’s as if Columbia Pictures violated some DVD code of ethics.
Yes, it would have been great to have more in-depth features – a Mike Nichols commentary, a Mike Nichols-Patrick Marber commentary, or some insight from the cast, perhaps. To have an Academy Award-nominated film treated this way is deplorable. It’s as if Columbia Pictures violated some DVD code of ethics.