Sex and the Cynics
Before watching "Closer" I read a fair few reviews and there is a very big split because there are those who love it, seeing it as very real whilst others absolutely hate it and see it as pretentious. Interestingly those who love it often mention what a good adaptation of the stage play it is and enjoy the fact that director Mike Nichols has captured that feel. And yes Nichols has certainly captured the feeling of is being a play, it has the choppiness you would expect to see as the stage is changed for different acts. But here is the thing, whilst I can appreciate Nichols skill the movie didn't do it for me and ended up a very cynical look at sex, love and power through the eyes of some very unbelievable characters.
So what happens in "Closer" well we have a meet cute when obituary writer Dan (Jude Law - Road to Perdition) meets Alice (Natalie Portman) when they lock eyes along a crowded London street and she is hit by a taxi. It brings the start of their relationship but a little way down the line Dan meets photographer Anna (Julia Roberts - Mona Lisa Smile), more on his scholarly level and he starts wanting her. It also brings into the equation Dr. Larry (Clive Owen) who through Dan's game playing ends up in a relationship with Anna. But with Dan having feelings for Anna can things ever stay as they are.
As already pointed out "Closer" has the feel of a stage play adapted into a movie and it has that choppy nature which for those who are not into the stage will find it jarring. Basically it doesn't flow especially as we have huge leaps in time as relationships form, people move in together and even marry. And it also doesn't flow because it doesn't seem to have a purpose, yes we have these 4 people but do you ever feel like one should be with the other, no because with maybe the exception of the innocent Alice they are all unpleasant characters.
But the thing about "Closer" it is less to do with what happens but what it is saying as its focus is on sex, love and power. Now we have one character that sees sex as having power, we have another where it is all about escaping the truth and we have various other intellectual looks at sex and love. But that is the thing, "Closer" isn't about being entertaining on a simple level but about engaging your brain to understand the cynical views on love and sex shared by the characters. But with the characters being unlikeable and the views extremely cynical it is not easy to get into and seems very false. What I mean is whilst I am sure there are those who use sex as power what comes across in "Closer" just does not ring true, it is not real life. And to highlight that I do not know anyone who is a grown up who talks about sex in such explicit terms as they are here, maybe it was meant to shock us but all it does is make the characters even less likeable.
Now because of this, because the characters of Anna, Dan and Larry are not likeable the actual performances from Julia Roberts, Jude Law and Clive Owen didn't exactly fill me with joy. I suppose they did play their dislikeable characters well but between feeling false and being dislikeable they are not memorable. On the other hand you have Natalie Portman as Alice and she is very much the innocent in this, a young girl who wants to love and it is out of feelings for someone rather than a need for power, well to begin with at least.
What this all boils down to is that "Closer" didn't do it for me because it came across as pretentious, false and cynical in its examination of sex, love and power. But for those who appreciate entertainment on an intellectual level where it is all about what is being said and meant rather than by what you watch I am sure it works.