At times, I have to close my eyes, block my ears, to avoid listening to words the characters say, for they are simply too painful to hear. Not that they are bad, but they are meant to evoke your utmost sense in dealing with lies, deception, and betrayal.
CLOSER presents a close look on how one has to deal with complexity in not just a relationship or two, or not even countable as those relationships are intertwined and tangled dizzyingly to one another. Take a look.
Meet Alice, a free-spirited American girl trying a piece of her life in London who, on one clear day, stumbles upon Dan, a struggling novelist who ends up being an obituary writer, who will be falling in love with Anna, a successful photographer at the height of her career, who will be taken by the charm of Larry, a doctor with typical male-chauvinist pig character inside of him, who will be longing for Alice’s presence at times when his life starts crumbling down.
Confused? We only reach the start. The core is much more interesting to see.
Once we peek at their domestic lives, we know that we can expect something different, unlike any other films dealing with similar theme before, for this time around, Mike Nichols has returned to his roots in theatrical/stage-y manner of presenting human interpersonal matters in a frank manner that to some extent shifts towards being blatant, blunt, and brutal, in the tradition of his own Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? or Carnal Knowledge, or Wit, or even Angels in America without any advanced visual effects. The shocking effects we can expect are Patrick Marber’s intimidating and manipulative words from his own play. The words are not merely written for the sake of having scenes that flow smoothly from one scene to another, but they are created thoughtfully and crafted through the ways they are uttered convincingly so much so that we will be leaving with questions whether those words are literally real, true or even deceiving?
Or do we begin to choose to accept the reality as the way we want to perceive it as is?
The way this film is presented without any clear conscience on timeframe actually enables us as the audience to choose the angle we wish to see and interpret the story, be it seen as a harsh, funny, witty or even dramatic rendition of human relationships, in any form. And the tendency to confront ourselves with words instead of action does actually happen in our lives, as we think that we can hide under the comfort zone of manipulations and lies, yet these two will actually trap us down deeper to the holes of continuous, endless fakes of reality.
Such a heavyweight theme, don’t you think? Yet, the way these sexual matters are told instead of meaninglessly shown would not giving you hard times or painful sitting through throughout the entire duration, and I can’t help questioning whether this is Nichol’s reason on the choice of the cast. Let’s see.
Julia Roberts in her furthest departure from usual roles she has played so far, provides a certain confidence in her uptight character of Anna, yet being bombarded with the regretful fact that the role was meant to be played by the always-reliable Cate Blanchett has hindered me from giving an objective view of Julia’s turnout here. I rest my case here. All I can come up with is how I do enjoy seeing Julia here, although the execution can be triggered to a higher level.
The same case happens to Jude Law, somehow is still unable to shake-off his own persona in playing the role of Dan that actually require the actor to bear his skin through his gentleness and sweet, tender gestures suggesting playful characters. Yet, Law only manages to barely reach the surface of the character as we can still see Law carrying himself here, somehow it’s hard for me to differentiate his Dan and his Alfie in another film of the same name.
That leaves us with two actors who, surprisingly, manage to hold their own screen presence in this film strongly and superbly: Clive Owen and Natalie Portman.
Playing a tart with deceiving heart that longing for truthfulness in other human beings she encounters in her life, Portman injects a strong dose of child-like feminine characterization to her Alice, suggesting that she can be fragile yet approachable at the same time; her journey in finding herself being loved faithfully by men surrounding her would mean sacrifice that she has to endure and that makes her strong, manipulative and decisive.
Clearly this is the most mature role Portman has ever played to date, and seeing her carrying her role with vivid understanding of a woman being victimized by her surroundings leave me feeling thrilled, as every minute of her screen time would be filled with surprises clearly shown in her facial expression, and it really is hard to believe that it’s been a decade since she made an outburst entrance in Leon The Professional.
Finally, if one has to single out one performance that stands out and apart from the rest, the noble honor belongs to Clive Owen, at last playing a role that deserves our attention and suitably match his charisma, his charm and his towering presence as a character actor. We can’t help seeing his character, Larry, here as a beast and as I wrote earlier, a typical male-chauvinist pig, and we get to the part of dismissing this character further as Owen plays the character in a menacing way, plainly honest in revealing his own truest fear and insecurity over his holdups. The rising of sensitive, new age guy has been clearly defied by Owen who gives macho-ism in his character here, and being Larry enables Owen to showcase his amazing range of acting skills that would be enviable to character-actors wannabe out there. Studious character that is played without being over-acted, Larry belongs to that rarity of characters who can be both loved and loathed at the same time, and Owen does his Larry convincingly that we begin to wonder on how this man, this particular character has been living around us all this time.
Being a human being with all the failures, the risings and the longing for boredom and steadiness in relationships, I can’t help myself reeling over this film. Never before sex, lies, truth and deceits are given an intellectual treatment with smart and witty lines peppered here and there, capturing not only your eyes but also your mind, captivating your senses to begin questioning:
What is truth?
CLOSER is all about the most sexually and sensually brutal film ever.