Sometimes the truth can hurt and sometimes the truth can feel good. The key is finding that middle ground between the truth and the lie, or is it? That question attempts to get answered in the film “Closer,” based off the award-winning play by Patrick Marber. While this film flew under the radar back in 2004, it did garner a few Oscar nominations, one of which being Natalie Portman for Best Supporting Actress. And with Portman’s new film “Black Swan” set to hit theaters this week, I wanted to venture back to what I view as her breakthrough performance as a young actress.
The story is where this film shines and it all revolves around four strangers, who experience love at first sight after meeting under the oddest of conditions. And really, this story revolves around the idea of love and all the lies and truth that can make or break people when they least expect it. This love revolves around two couples: Alice (Natalie Portman), an eccentric stripper who is literary hit by the love of struggling novelist Dan (Jude Law), and then there is Larry (Clive Owen), a stimulating dermatologist who falls for photographer Anna (Julia Roberts). Somehow all four of these strangers wind up meeting and become intertwined with each other, testing the limits of love. And this brutal test of love was done over the course of several years, driving each of them crazier and crazier as time went on leading to a tricky and shameless conclusion.
Some might say that too much talent can take away from the story, and while that’s true in some cases, it wasn’t in the case of “Closer.” This cast was well thought out and put together and it showed throughout the film. And the best part about that was that there was no lead actor or actress. I know that may be hard to believe considering Julia Roberts and Jude Law star in this film; but while their performances were some of their best in recent months, none could top the performances put in by Clive Owen and Natalie Portman. Clive Owen, until recently, was just another likeable face on the big screen, not having been in too many American films, but he makes his presence known in a big way here.
He stepped into a role that fed off others and wound up stealing scenes left and right. Owen has a certain swagger about him that is just fun to watch, especially when you can see it displayed in a love story like this. But, make no mistake about it, this story was about more than just love; it was about the truth that many of us don’t want to face with ourselves, and that in itself is pretty deep. Adding to Owen’s lure was Natalie Portman, who did a fabulous job as the ‘token’ rookie in this film to the well-known veterans. Sure, Portman has been around for years, but now she’s growing into quite an actress and this role helped her get there.
I think the one aspect of this film that needs to be pointed out is how well it was written and directed. The same writer who penned the play wrote the screenplay for this and a lot of credit needs to go to Patrick Marber. The dialogue in this film was top notch, allowing the actors to use their talents in other ways, without having to make up for poor lines that may or may not fit with the emotion taking place. A good script is one thing, but it all has to be put together and shot in a way that appeals to the audience. Well, I don’t think there could be a better person to do just that than director Mike Nichols, who clearly outdid himself in this one.
Nichols uses every bit of Marber’s script, right down to the raw nature of the language being spoken. Now, I will tell you that the dialogue in this film might go too far in some people’s minds, but that was the intent. Nichols clearly wants to leap such barriers and hit some nerves, but that’s what the play does and there’s a certain beauty in that. He lets the actors/actresses act and feed off of each other, which ultimately made the story more intense and almost dark in feel. I don’t know if this film is for everyone, but if you like a well-written story that will test your own definition of love, this one is for you.
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