Today is huge. Sure, sure, it’s election day, but what’s more important is it’s my birthday! Like all of us, I share my birthday with quite a number of talented celebrities. I ultimately decided to honor 81-year-old comedian, director, producer and writer Mike Nichols who’s been at the helm of memorable projects since his first Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? to his most recent, Charlie Wilson’s War. Of his projects, I have chosen the 2004 play adaption Closer because it’s also my birthday and ogling Natalie Portman as she sports a sequined lavender thong that barely covers her jungle book and executes a spread eagle split on the back of a plush purple couch seemed like a nice treat to myself.
Obits writer Dan (Jude Law) is traversing the crowded London streets on his way to work when he’s enamored of the vibrant, disarming woman approaching. Her mystique is cut short when she’s hit by an oncoming taxi. Dan rushes to her aid and so begins his romance with Alice (Natalie Portman). Later, Dan visits photographer Anna (Julia Roberts) for head-shots for his upcoming novel and confesses he’s been instantly smitten with her. Denied his heart’s desire, Dan enters a cyber-sex chat room pretending to be Anna and woos Larry (Clive Owen) into a lewd rendezvous. The prank backfires and Anna and Larry become romantically involved. Much later, they all meet at Anna’s exhibition, revealing their loving relationships are anything but.
Obviously, Closer gets mad bonus points for casting Natalie Portman as the lovable, and unleavable, stripper Alice. I could watch the scene featuring Alice dancing for Larry over and over again, but ironically not for her scantily-clad physique. It’s perhaps one of the best character exchanges. Alice, now calling herself Jane, keeps the lecherous Larry at bay with her words while taunting him with every smile and movement. At the same time, Larry tries to break down Alice’s walls with his brusque and brazen questions and demands. It’s raw and unrelenting, rife with so much sexual and emotional tension that Owen staring at Portman’s nearly bare ass is hardly salient.
Portman and Owen are awesome in their portrayals, but Jude Law and Julia Roberts don’t slouch in their roles either. Roberts’ Anna is as much a coward as Law’s Dan is fickle. The four, through their various encounters, carry on candidly intimate and unsettling conversations of their waxing and waning love. If Owen’s Larry is involved, the exchanges are nearly always obscene; his argument with Anna in their loft being the most brutally indecent to hear, yet strangely gratifying to watch. For all of Closer‘s talk of coitus, little more than kissing is ever seen. There’s also a symmetry to the dialogue and to aspects of the characters written by Patrick Marber that, when combined with Nichols’ excellent direction and the actors’ electrifying performances, makes Closer undeniably beguiling.
Most films adapted from plays tends to be talky, but Closer holds the types of conversations people love to overhear. Sometimes sordid, and always juicy, audiences won’t be able to turn away as these four weaponize their love against one another.