* (out of 5)
December 3, 2004
Julia Roberts as ANNA
Jude Law as DANIEL
Natalie Portman as ALICE
Clive Owen as LARRY
Directed by: Mike Nichols
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
The last quarter of the year is usually pretty busy for me. I do some seasonal work that has its busy season in the last two months of the year. Also, on the movie review angle, there are a ton of movies that are released, both for the holiday season as well as sneaking out a film before the Oscar deadline. Add to this all the chaos of Christmas with my family and my in-laws, and things get hairy in December.
With all the traveling and other commitments I have, I try to squeeze in as many reviews as I can. But sometimes I just can’t make a screening. When I saw the time for the press screening for “Closer,” I considered blowing it off. After all, I had a screening for “Blade Trinity” coming up, and that could be my review for the week.
Unfortunately, I realized that “Blade Trinity” doesn’t come out until next week (stay tuned for that one). After reviewing the release schedules, I realized that “Closer” was the only movie opening this week.
So against my instincts, I went.
And it was awful. Not “Alexander” awful, but it was pretty bad nonetheless.
Then I heard all the buzz about it being a potential Oscar contender. And I had to scratch my head. Trust me, “Closer” is a bad movie. Oh, the stars act their little hearts out, but this doesn’t save the film from an aimless, insipid plot.
“Closer” tells the story of four people entangled in a self-destructive web of infidelity. First Daniel (Jude Law) and Alice (Natalie Portman) are together. Then Daniel hits on Anna (Julia Roberts), and is rejected. He inadvertently plays cupid between Anna and Larry (Clive Owen), but eventually uses their entwined relationships to boink Anna after all. And when later in the film, Anna cheats on him, he has the audacity to be mad.
Ugh. A better name for this movie would be “Four Beautiful People Cheating on Each Other.”
Even without seeing the credits, I knew this movie was based on a play. It reeks of the theatre, with the overwritten dialogue, the not-so-witty matter-of-fact lines, the overdose of characterization for characters that have no redeeming value.
The film is competently made, and as I said before, the acting is quite good. However, the writing is terrible. For example, in one scene where Larry discovers that Anna’s been cheating on him with Daniel while he was away on business, he starts the conversation by admitting he banged a hooker in New York. While there’s no good way to confess infidelity to a spouse, there are still plenty of other ways than this.
Then, when Anna admits that she has been canoodling with Daniel, Larry demands to know how he tastes, and he isn’t speaking figuratively. (I know… yuk!) So what is Anna’s response to this? “Just like you, only sweeter.” Oh yeah, this film has Oscar caliber written all over it.
Over the past few weeks, the Hollywood press has managed to blame the 2004 Presidential Election for the failure of certain movies. They blame it for the demise of “Alfie,” saying no one wants to see a movie about promiscuous behavior (yet “Sex in the City” reruns still draw in millions of viewers). They blame it for the failure of “Alexander,” saying people are too homophobic (yet “Will and Grace” remains one of the most popular sit-coms of the day).
If “Closer” doesn’t do well, I’m sure they’ll blame the Red States again, saying infidelity doesn’t click with Christian conservatives.
But the Hollywood press misses the point. They forget that sometimes the success or failure of a movie has nothing to do with values or politics. Sometimes movies just stink.