Review: “Closer”

A superb study of relationship drama, “Closer” is a very entertaining and interesting look at the uglier side of love where sex, intimacy and words are dangerous weapons. A perfect ‘anti-date’ movie if there ever was one, “Closer” is for the cynical single in us all. It’s for the ones who understand and have dealt with the way love, betrayal and loneliness can tear into our soul and how only little comfort can be found in the arms of a loved one because trust is one of the hardest things to come by & is never absolute no matter who the person is.

What makes “Closer” so refreshing is its frankness. There’s no moralising here, and no attempts to soften the blows. Characters fall out of love quickly and brutally, whilst dialogue is frank and raw enough even the “South Park” guys would raise their eyebrows. When Owen and Roberts have an argument whose main battling point is over the flavour of Law’s semen, then you know you’re in territory that’s rarely shown on the big screen let alone handled by stars of such calibre. Til now we’ve merely had films like “Your Friends and Neighbours” and Nichols own “Carnal Knowledge” to deal with the subject, but “Closer” has much more polish and finesse to its harshness.

Credit must go to Patrick Marber’s screenplay, Mike Nichols directing and the four leads. This is still a stage play at heart with practically no other characters, little use of background music, and stark but real London settings. Thus many of the scenes entirely revolve around two-person conversations, but that simplicity helps add to the realness of the whole endeavour. The interesting ‘time jump’ technique only shows the start and ends of relationships in this ‘love square’, and pays little to no attention to the times in between.

This allows the emotion level to remain high throughout – never settling into a tedium which most relationships can fall into not long after they begin. Credit also to the four actors. Whilst Law does a solid job and handles the role better than many of his recent performances, the real surprise is Roberts who for once isn’t playing her usual bubbly self but actually pushing her range into convincing dramatic territory. Better still though are both Portman and Owen. Portman is the sweetest and most ‘genuine’ of the quartet even if she’s a bit of a manipulator on her own. Unlike the others though she is the character that still seems to have feelings on the surface and can be hurt, the actress portraying that wounded butterfly hardened by life aspect extremely well.

Owen gives his best work to date as Larry, the brutal and tactless doctor who likes things rougher than most but is completely upfront and honest about himself and his actions. Combining this raw brutish machismo with a softer emotional side that can be scarred is difficult but he pulls it off superbly. It’s a real testament to him and Portman when the two’s conversation just mesmerizes you to the screen even during one of the silliest looking private sex club dancing sessions you’ve ever seen on screen.

Critics have been saying they don’t get into “Closer” because the people in this aren’t anything like the people they know. Quite frankly I found the characters to be a lot like people I know – some are more upfront about it than others, but below the surface I’ve found many people to be like this – maybe not as voracious but certainly as self-deluded into thinking their actions have no consequences and won’t hurt those around them. The film’s treatment of men in particular is quite honest with the way that even more than women, men delude themselves into feeling secure about their relationships and just little things can tear those walls down.

With all this raw emotion and grim outlook, a few clever moments of wit really help keep it afloat. Law and Owen have an online messenger sex scene that’s hilarious, the dialogue in many scenes is well worth a smirk. None of these characters are particularly nice people, which means their comeuppance is an enjoyable guilty pleasure. The few bits of music are excellent, the editing and production details spot on, all up I really loved this film. Certainly for those in a blooming or dwindling relationship, this is not a film to see but for me, this is easily one of my faves of the year.