Movie Review by Jonathan Harvey
Starring: Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Clive Owen
Director: Mike Nichols
Adapted from former ‘The Day Today’ alumnus Patrick Marber’s award-winning play, and with the small but heavyweight cast of Jude Law, Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen, CLOSER is unsurprisingly one of the most hotly tipped films for the new awards season. It tells the story of a ‘love quadrangle’ and their intertwining relationships, flitting between the romance of coupling up and the trauma of breaking up, and leaving all the padding in between at the door. The result is a smart mix of light and dark, punctuating the heavy drama with some polished comedy.
Obituary writer Dan (Law) meets lover Alice (Portman) by chance after she’s knocked down by a taxi, and as he accompanies her to the hospital they begin a romance which will inspire his first novel. Yet years later, when he’s promoting the book he tries it on with photographer Anna (Roberts), who at first resists his charms and chooses instead Larry (Owen), a doctor inadvertently introduced to her by Dan. But as time passes, Dan wins Anna and their affair sparks a chain reaction from which everyone gets hurt.
The film is powered by its refreshingly honest take on relationships and the pain which sexual infidelity can cause, and all four A-listers do well to bring their characters (and their flaws) to life credibly. Portman and Owen (who appeared in the stage play as Dan) excel, breathing life into Alice and Larry’s emotional wounds and desperate reactions to them, while the higher-billed Law and (particularly) Roberts pale by comparison. What stops the film from being a true classic is the unexpectedly flat direction by Mike Nichols, which drains the emotion from dramatic moments such as Larry and Alice’s encounter at the strip club, and at points the overly theatrical nature of the screenplay (which Marber himself wrote) becomes too exposed. It begs the question of whether the stage is where this truly belongs. But even so CLOSER the movie exudes class, emotion and humour, and is a safe bet to garner a fair few awards in the coming months. Portman for best supporting actress? You read it here first.