Closer focuses on strong characterization (including flaws), dysfunctional adult relationships, and blurs the line between love and sex, truth and deception. This picture was created with me in mind. There are no flaming explosions, no fake sex scenes, no unbelievable characters, no farts or fart jokes, no loud music overpowering the dialogue, no villains, and no heroes. Not that I don’t enjoy movies with those aspects in them, it’s just nice to have a break once in a while.
I think it’s obvious that after The Phantom Menace anyone would be glad to know Natalie Portman is hit by a car within the first few minutes of Closer, but there are several other reasons that make this a good film. Once she’s hit, her relationship with Jude Law’s character begins, thus leading to conversations about their backgrounds as they quiz each other about life. Instantly, we see the characters as themselves and not actors. The questions they ask and the way the film is shot is so captivating you forget you’re waiting for the story to start.
Then there’s the first time-jump and you’re stuck trying to piece together the gap between the previous scene and what has happened to get to the new one. These flash-forwards happen pretty often and I think pull away from the intimacy of the piece. Instead of us following these characters and understanding their actions or at least the reasoning behind them, we’re disconnected from them and lose out on the intensity that could have been built if we knew what really happened. However, the jumps do create an air of mystery and develop a tangled dynamic to unscramble, thus making you want to get “closer.” In a way it reminds me of Memento where the gaps add to the interest of the movie and don’t turn you off despite possible confusion. Next, we bring in "undefined" - Julia Roberts’ character, and later sleazy Clive Owen’s. With four players, it doesn’t take long to realize this movie is more than a love triangle.
There are several fresh twists, strong emotional tensions, and a complex plot pushing the story forward. A nice touch is that many of the characters’ actions and words are linked together with something they’ve already said. For example, in the beginning, after Portman says she left her ex-boyfriend by simply saying, “I don’t love you anymore. Good-bye.” Law then asks Portman, “you’ve never left someone you still love?” To which she says, “no.” This is a clear and wonderful setup for us to challenge her statement and confirm if she is honest, or realize she’s not trustworthy. Several statements like this are in the movie and it is up to us to judge if that character really believes what they are saying or if they’re lying.
Amid the sometimes corny music there are parallels between the couples, tangles of conflicted feelings, cheating, and talk about sex. Did I say “talk about sex?” No. It’s more like extremely explicit discussions. There is a lot of graphic language but no sex scenes are shown. This is a good thing. Several of the scenes are downright vulgar at times but I never once was forced to watch actors paw at each other and pant while cuddling in their sexiest possible positions. We’re all adults here. We know sex exists. So we don’t have to have it thrown in our face for us to comprehend who is a couple and who has split up. Thank you, Patrick Marber!
While I don’t think it would have hurt to introduce Jude Law to a comb, every one of the actors in this film is superb, and I don’t say superb often. They present the juxtaposition of defining love, sex, addiction, lying, deceit, and who is a stranger and who is a lover. They do everything that people in life do and are able to leave an impact when you realize that, like life, there are no main characters and not everyone is entirely truthful in everything they do. Closer takes a bird's eye-view into the lives of four people and makes you wonder just how well you know the people you think you’re close to.
If you can get past the overly airbrushed cover of the box, where Julia Roberts’ skin looks like that of a teenager and everyone is blemish/mole/scar-free, inside you’ll find a pathetic little disc with a great movie on it and not much else. If you really care to see the music video to “The Blower’s Daughter” and preview eight other films, then you’ll like it, otherwise, prepare to be bitterly disappointed.
There is nothing else there. Nothing.
With a movie this good there should have been an audio commentary by the director or the writer of the screenplay. There should have been interviews with all four of the major players in this movie. There should have been deleted scenes, a discussion of the film with someone, anyone telling what it was that they were trying to do by making Closer. Someone could talk about what the film is saying about sex, relationships, and lying. In the movie, Law says “lying is the currency of the world.” Did his character believe that or is it the message of the film? Who got so screwed over by their girl- or boyfriend that they decided the way people cheat on each other here is they way the world is? Who? What? Where? Why? How? All the questions we strive to answer aren’t even asked.
And what is on the disc isn’t even extra. A video and previews? Come on! That’s like saying when you buy a car that the seats are extra. This is a film to discuss and there is no discussion, no behind-the-scenes making of, no nothing. (I’m sure this lack of anything to see is probably some ploy to sell deluxe editions in a year, making us scrounge up extra money.) Please, there has got to be an alternate ending or beginning lying around somewhere. Why didn’t we get to see it? How can Hollywood finally give us something to chew on and then say we can only chew on it for 104 minutes and then it’s over? “I don’t love you anymore. Good-bye.”