Being a hopeless romantic can be lots of fun, when things are good. But when things are not so good, to quote the old Nazareth chestnut “Love Hurts”. When I heard about Closer, I was reminded of a film I saw while in Film History class, Rules of the Game, a French classic from the early Thirties that twisted my gut with it’s rampant infidelity and carnal backstabbing. Well, sure enough Closer took hold of my insides as well. No, maybe not as firmly Rules, but it still makes one think just the same.

A waifish American exotic dancer (Natalie Portman) finds herself in London, and is looked after by her own dashing British Gent (Jude Law). Then the Gent meets an American photographer (Julia Roberts) who he later inadvertently introduces to a Brit doctor (Clive Owen). To say anything more about the plot or story is basically giving away too much. Suffice it to say, eventually they all know each other…and Natalie Portman’s extraordinary beauty aside, it’s never pretty.

Directed by the legendary Mike Nichols, Closer is based on a play, and it shows. All of the scenes are very intimate, and basically the dialogue and interaction of the characters is important. Setting is basically irrelevant. All the drama is in their hands, and they all perform wonderfully.

What can I say about Natalie Portman that I haven’t already said repeatedly throughout this website. Her beauty is matched (and perhaps, surpassed) only by her acting. This young thespian, who basically grew up before our eyes, takes to the role of the passionate young woman with alarming perfection. To paraphrase the film itself, she’s quite “disarming”. Any and all Oscar buzz and kudos she receives for this role is very well deserved.

Jude Law never disappoints, and here is no exception. I’ve never seen him play a role like this one, and he does very well. I can’t comment on his status of “Sexiest Man Alive”, but he is a very good actor. Clive Owen I’ve only really seen once before (GOSFORD PARK), but I think he was great. His character was one of the more dynamic of the four, and he pulled it off nicely. I can’t wait to see him handle “Dwight” in the upcoming Sin City movie!

Ironically Julia Roberts, America’s sweetheart, and probably it’s biggest female star, was, to me anyway, the weakest link in Closer. Wait. Relax. I’m not saying she’s bad. Hell, she’s really good! But somehow I feel her take on the character was the least interesting (or maybe her character is the least interesting, I don’t know). But really, she IS good, and if all “weakest links” were as good as her, it would be a wonderful thing!

Maybe Closer in and of itself isn’t the best movie out there. Maybe the play works better, I don’t know. But the cast is so good that this movie can’t help but be good. It’s not a pretty movie. It’s pretty ugly actually. But Closer will make you think…and maybe even make you try a little harder to work things out.

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