Mike Nichols’s career is defined by his critically acclaimed film “The Graduate” – and deservedly so.
But the director’s much more cynical “Closer,” based on a play of the same name, is a more entertaining film.
The opening scene – reminiscent of a Nicholas Sparks novel, or at least how I imagine a Nicholas Sparks novel would begin – is a romantic slow motion shot.
First we see Alice (Natalie Portman), as she walks down a street, buried in a mass of city-goers.
Then, on the other side, we see the cool but geeky Dan (Jude Law) as he walks in glorious slow motion.
Meanwhile, folk-singer Damien Rice repeatedly sings, “I can’t keep my eyes off of you.”
And, unfortunately for Alice, she really can’t keep her eyes off of Dan. Consequently, she’s hit by a car.
Luckily, Dan is quick to run to her side.
Don’t be fooled. Remember that I said it was extremely cynical?
Through that cheesy opening, Nichols lulls the audience into a false sense of security.
At this point, most viewers either dismiss the movie as another vapid rom-dram or embrace it for its corniness – if you’re into that sort of thing.
But fast forward one year into the film’s plot (only about 15 minutes in), and viewers realize that “Closer” isn’t the typical boy meets girl story.
Now Dan, who’s finished a book about his girlfriend Alice, is flirting with his photographer Anna (Julia Roberts).
And then, suave as can be, he kisses Anna, and then, soon after, admits that he’s already in a committed relationship.
I mean, Dan describes lying as “the currency of the world.” People like that usually don’t mix with monogamy.
But that’s just the beginning of the film’s complicated web of unfaithful romances..
Through an amusing set of events, which I won’t completely spoil, Dan unintentionally sets Anna up with Larry (Clive Owen), a successful dermatologist.
Meanwhile, Dan has feelings for or at least desires Anna, so when the two meet at her photography exhibit, there is obvious sexual tension.
And while Dan and Anna have a private conversation at the art opening, Larry and Alice seem to find each other – and again, the sexual tension is palpable.
This eventually culminates in a messy, complicated adultery-fest.
The couples switch more than three times, and it’s almost hard to keep track of who’s sleeping with whom.
The reason “Closer” is so entertaining is its blunt, provocative nature.
Alice’s quote, “Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking her clothes off,” while over the top, is indicative of the overall tone.
The film has a whole slew of these cynical, dark lines.
But this bluntness is refreshing. It’s as if “Closer” is the anti-romance film.
Now, I’m not a complete misanthrope, and I’m not someone who thinks love doesn’t exist. Still, as I said, “Closer” is a breath of fresh air.
The film takes our culture’s unrealistic portrayal of love and smashes it into a million pieces.
However, I’m sure some would argue that Nichols goes too far, making the plot so outrageous and messy that it loses its punch and becomes laughable.
But I think that the film’s over-the-top approach simply adds to its entertainment factor – like a Quentin Tarantino movie, except death is replaced with a bunch of broken hearts.
—By Maxwell Shukuya