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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner10/01/2005

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 104 mins

Enjoyable, provocative drama that successfully transcends its stage origins thanks to confident direction from Mike Nichols and impressive performances from its four leads.

Patrick Marber’s play Closer was a critical and commercial hit on the London stage in 1999 so it should come as no surprise that it has been adapted for the screen. Marber himself wrote the screenplay and it also stars Clive Owen, who was in the original stage production. On top of that, it’s directed by Mike Nichols, who knows a thing or two about adapting plays for the screen, having previously directed films such as Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Tangled Relationships

The events of the film take place over several years in the lives of four characters. Natalie Portman stars as Alice, a free-spirited young woman who is knocked down by a car and meets obituary writer and frustrated novelist Dan (Jude Law). They get together and Dan writes a novel about their relationship.

Then, while posing for the photograph for his novel, Dan meets and falls for the photographer, Anna (Julia Roberts), who has just come out of a failed marriage. Anna then meets and falls for Larry (Clive Owen), little suspecting that Dan had engineered their meeting by posing as a woman on the internet and talking to Larry.

Over the course of the next few years the lives of these characters intersect and they cheat on each other, split up, get back together, cheat on each other again and generally have a pretty miserable time.

Thematically, the play is similar to Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, though Marber foregoes Pinter’s structural tricksiness. The fact that there are only four characters means that the film’s stage origins are on constant display, so it’s to Nichols’ credit that it never feels stagey or claustrophobic. It’s also extremely funny in places, with some superb dialogue.

Excellent Performances All Round

The acting is superb. The normally soporific Clive Owen gives his best performance to date and reveals that he does have screen charisma after all. Who knew? Of course, it helps that he gets all the best lines. Jude Law is the weakest link of the film, but he’s also stuck with the least sympathetic character so it works in his favour – he should play more bastards. It’s actually worth seeing the film just for the scene where Dan has cybersex with an unsuspecting Larry over the internet.

Natalie Portman is terrific, in her most adult role to date - it's probably safe to say she has a proper grown-up career ahead of her. (The fact that she has a few scenes as a stripper probably won’t harm the film’s box office either). Julia Roberts is pretty good too, though she's not required to do much more than look sad, which, of course, she's brilliant at. There is, however, a certain illicit thrill in seeing her shout obscenities at Clive Owen; the break-up scene between Larry and Anna is a definite highlight.

Nichols makes strong use of locations, particularly London’s little-known Postman’s Park, which plays a central role in the film. The film’s soundtrack is good too, with Damien Rice’s song The Blower’s Daughter being used to haunting effect.

In short, Closer is well worth seeing, although it might not be a wise choice if you’re currently undergoing relationship difficulties. Recommended.

Film Trailer

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Content updated: 25/08/2019 00:36

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