In recent interviews, actor Jude Law has described the characters in his latest film, "Closer," as "mature adults."
'Closer' opens today. (Sony)
Jude Law is a terrific actor, and his assessment is a terrific misstatement. The four characters in this Mike Nichols film are lots of things, but mature isn't one of them. One isn't mature by virtue of age, but of action.
Dan, Alice, Anna and Larry—played respectively by Law, Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts and Clive Owen—form a London love quadrangle. They're basically pathetic as individuals, as couples and certainly as a foursome.
Dan is with Alice, but falls for Anna, who hooks up with Larry, who goes after Alice, who may or may not love Dan, who …
The film, based on a Patrick Marber stage play, carries the tagline, "If you believe in love at first sight, you never stop looking."
It's established early that Dan is a cheater. He's not very likable, and the same can be said of everyone else, unfortunately. Their humor makes them somewhat attractive, but their shallow commitments make them folks you'd want to avoid.
All of this is doubly unfortunate because the performances are remarkable, especially those of Portman and Owen. Portman, best known perhaps for playing Queen Amidala in the new Star Wars trilogy, definitely takes off the headgear here.
And Owen is magnetic as Larry (he played Dan in the London stage production). He gives shallowness depth—no small feat.
Larry lives in a world where "everything is a version of something else," as he remarks. That being true, he wants the genuine article and can't find it. He craves honesty and truth, practically begging Alice at one point, "Tell me something true."
Her response: "What's so great about the truth? Try lying for a change. It's the currency of the world."
The film's narrative framework is compelling for the way in which blocks of time—and important events—are skipped over, leaving the characters and audience to sift through the wreckage of reaction to what has transpired. The upshot of this framework is that the film spans about four years, but it feels more like four weeks.
Speaking of weeks, "Weaker" would have been more apropos as a title. Just when you think a character can't become any weaker in terms of resolve, he does. Just when you think she can't be weaker than her partner, she is.
Of course, these weaklings use sex as a weapon, which further jeopardizes their chances for grasping what is true. It also accounts for the R rating, which is most well deserved.
"Closer" essentially gives a talented group of individuals a chance to bring gravitas to superficiality. Mission accomplished.
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.
MPAA Rating: R for sequences of graphic sexual dialogue, nudity/sexuality and language. Reviewer's Note: The film features some extremely graphic sexual dialogue—in face to face encounters and notably in an Internet sex sequence that sets the "plot" afoot.
Director: Mike Nichols
Writer: Patrick Marber (based on his stage play)
Cast: Dan: Jude Law; Alice: Natalie Portman; Anna: Julia Roberts; Larry: Clive Owen.
The movie's official Web site is here.