The tony trappings of upscale
fail to mask the rather ugly games of sexual one-upsmanship that characterize the entwining relationships of the film's four lead characters. Based on a play by Patrick Marber (who wrote the equally perceptive and acidic Notes on a Scandal - 2006), Closer is a sexual roundelay that skewers romantic myth and lays waste those who pursue love as though it were part of self-fulfillment program. Here, the believers of love at first sight; those souls whose religion is passion, chemistry, and the heart wanting what it wants - are revealed to be the ones most apt to give themselves licence to lie, deceive, and and inflict pain, if all is done in the name of love. London
Having explored the ins and outs of caustic relationships in both Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) and Carnal Knowledge (1971), Mike Nichols is cinema's unofficial frontline correspondent in the war between the sexes. With wit and candor, he goes to places of rare honesty in human relations and somehow finds ways of making us see parts of ourselves in some of the most odious characters. He has a gift for shining a compassionate but cold light on some of the worst aspects of human interaction; and in the process, reinforces the notion that sometimes even at our most monstrous, most of us are rarely ever less than just human.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THIS FILM:
Portman: “I don’t eat fish.”
Law: “Why not?”
Portman: “Fish piss in the sea.”
Law: “So do children.”
Portman: “I don’t eat children, either."
- but direct and to-the-point in revealing character and the small ways we use words to protect ourselves, wound others, and ultimately conceal. The film is as much a treat for the ears as it is for the eyes.
“Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking her clothes off. But it’s better if you do.”
THE STUFF OF FANTASY
Closer is indeed a film about unpleasant people acting unpleasantly, but everyone is shot so lovingly they practically glow. As a fan of vintage movies, my heart has a special place for that time in history (pre late-50s realism) when movies were populated exclusively by those humanoid gods and goddesses we called movie stars. They didn't look like anyone we'd ever seen and the world they inhabited onscreen didn't even remotely look like the one we inhabited. It was a hyper reality that created a dreamscape to build fantasies on.
THE STUFF OF DREAMS
The one scene I never tire of watching is a sequence that takes place in a private room of a strip club where Natalie Portman and Clive Owen verbally spar about love, lust and longing.
It is amazing on so many levels. From a purely technical standpoint, the astounding virtuosity of the camera angles alone make for a unitary lesson in filmmaking.
It's funny, tense, sexy as hell, and oddly moving as these two enact a mating dance of the lonely.
It certainly doesn't hurt that Natalie Portman sets the screen aflame, either.
WHAT FUELED MY DREAMS
From everything I've written thus far, I've made it sound as though Closer were an anti-romantic comedy (black comedy) and basically down on love. The the truth is, like that other favorite of mine, Two for the Road, Closer is at its core a deeply romantic film. Chiefly because it dares to show the bare bones of relationships and dramatizes the hard work and self-sacrifice necessary to achieve true intimacy with another. The four protagonists in Closer all fumble about blindly seeking love without knowing how to return it, demanding love without earning it, and giving love without committing to it.
Love Gets Ugly
To my way of thinking, a film like Closer gives love the respect it deserves.
Not everybody has the stomach for movies like this. Indeed, the public stayed well away from this film when it was released. But the relationships I grew up around (and I dare say a good many of the relationships I see today) look more like the ones depicted here than the inherently dishonest, wish-fulfillment fantasies of The Bridges of Madison County or Under the Tuscan Sun. That may be my curse or blessing, I don't know. But what I do know is that I've seen more tears shed and people hurt over the pursuit of false ideals than I ever have over people coming to terms with the fact that love takes courage, selflessness and a willingness to be vulnerable.
Law: “Deception is brutal. I’m not pretending otherwise”
Closer is an adult story about the responsibilities of real love. That it tells its story with wit, intelligence and style only serves to make it one of my fave rave films of all time. A modern classic.
Natalie Portman - Stopping Traffic
Copyright © Ken Anderson