CLOSER, way too stagy to be a movie, makes minutes feel like hours, as two
dysfunctional couples argue quietly and artistically -- think WHO'S AFRAID
OF VIRGINIA WOOLF ON VALIUM. The movie, based on Patrick Marber's play,
clearly wants to be seen in an intimate setting on a small stage with an
equally small audience who can admire the actors' whispered lines, which
would never be spoken in real life and work only on a stage: "Lying is the
most fun a girl can have without taking her clothes off," and "I hate retro.
I hate the future. Where does that leave me?"
CLOSER is directed by Mike Nichols, whose last picture was the box office
bomb WHAT PLANET ARE YOU FROM? He doesn't appear this time to realize that
he is directing a movie and not a play. It will probably leave most
audiences, as it did ours, fidgeting as it dragged on and complaining as
they walked out.
The movie concerns four individuals with the type of professions that
writers love to write about. One, of course, is a writer, Dan (Jude Law),
an obituary journalist turned novelist. His girlfriend, Alice (Natalie
Portman), is a stripper who performs in private booths. Anna (Julia
Roberts), an artistic photographer, is paired with Larry (Clive Owen), a
doctor whom she meets accidentally via a practical joke played by Dan.
The couples are politely vicious as they play musical beds. A typical scene
has one of them demanding again and again to know the truth about an
infidelity, which he already knows, and then being upset when the obvious is
Throughout the film, the actors never step out of their own personas. What
we witness aren't four characters but four actors demonstrating their
talents on what should be a stage rather than a screen. A movie that wants
to be taken as devastatingly honest, it turns out instead to be tedious and
phony, without a single believable character. Expect most critics to fawn
over the film and most audiences to shake their heads, wondering what in the
world the critics see in it.
CLOSER runs a long 1:40. It is rated R for "sequences of graphic sexual
dialogue, nudity/sexuality and language" and would be acceptable for older
Copyright © 2004 Steve Rhodes