Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents
Dan: You think love is simple. You think the heart is like a diagram.
Larry: Have you ever seen a human heart? It looks like a fist wrapped in blood!
- Jude Law, Clive Owen
Stars: Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Clive Owen
Director: Mike Nichols
MPAA Rating: R for sequences of graphic sexual dialogue, nudity/sexuality and language
Run Time: 01h:43m:46s
Release Date: 2005-03-29
DVD ReviewIs there such a thing as too much honesty? In a romantic relationship, an arrangement sought and deemed essential to a life well lived by many, honesty would seem to be a cornerstone of success. True intimacy goes far beyond the bedroom, requiring an intellectual connection; a link built upon mutual understanding, affection and communication seems ideal. Still, it is the character of the human beings involved that shapes the final outcome, and even something as pure as honesty can be perverted into a terrible weapon.
Mike Nichols' Closer, a harrowingly savage examination of love, sex, and adultery, reveals the ruinous power of deception and honesty, wielded by four destructive human beings. It opens innocently enough, with a cinematically affecting scene of love at first sight. A lightning bolt is mutually exchanged between a young red-haired stripper who has fled New York and an obituary writer in London. Alice (Portman) and Dan (Law) share the first moments of blissful connection in a charmingly disarming scene, set in a hospital waiting room. Dan, stuck in the "Siberia of journalism," is enamored by the fire-eyed beauty. The connection is immediate, but is the love real?
Fast forward a few years. Dan, on the verge of releasing his first novel (based on the seedy exploits of his long-time lover, Alice), is having his headshot taken for the book jacket. The photographer, the artsy and alluring Anna (Roberts), seems fascinated by the boyish Dan, but demotes him to a mere "job." Dan's demeanor has changed over the years, however: he has regained a nasty tobacco habit, and has become much more forthright and confident in matters of love. A bold gesture leads to a long kiss, prompting a carnal connection with Anna. He refuses to leave the un-leavable Alice, yet as much as stalks Anna. Through petty, childish, and rather adult means, Dan inadvertently pairs Anna with Larry (Owen), a sexually fixated dermatologist who quickly marries the photographer. Infidelity becomes rampant in short order, pitting these four players in a cruel game of words, where love is not war, it's genocide.
I should stop here. This is a difficult film to examine without revealing its secrets. Too much plot description will gut Closer of its power. Needless to say, these characters find themselves shuffled around like a deck of well-worn cards, and rightfully so; each seems eternally disconnected from one another, unable to truly love or form lasting connections. The closer each comes to knowing one another, the more disease is uncovered, pushing them further apart. Compounding the destructive power of infidelity is the revenge-laden barrage of cruel words; this is a verbally brutal and graphic film that cuts to the heart, revealing the true nature of each combatant. There is a rampant obsession with knowing the truth throughout. Dan is the epitome of such strife, acting as the catalyst for this savage web, then reduced to looking for answers he does not want. Yet, each character is despicable in his or her own way.
This is an actor's film, no doubt. Law's transformation from bookworm to player is notable, capturing the male tendency to want what cannot be had. Likewise, Owen as Larry is a multifaceted fascination, shifting from alpha male to a vengeful intellectual who gains the admiration of the scheming Dan. Roberts' shutterbug, in a shift for America's sweetheart, is an infuriating character at times. She is the object of affection throughout, but her character is emotionally bankrupt and masochistic, craving guilt and suffering. Like the subject of her photographs, she remains a stranger. Portman (who can act, despite George Lucas) is the proverbial baton here, passing between the men, wanting for love and little more. Though she may appear to be the most earnest and heartfelt, she is not devoid of deception. It's Portman and Owen who are certainly the standouts here, earning well-deserved Golden Globes and Academy Award nominations for their stunning portrayals.
Nichols' camera observes these crackling scenes with little interference. He indulges in the occasional quick dolly and zoom only for punctuation, opting for more formal compositions and gripping close-ups in the interim. Based on the play by Patrick Marber (who also penned the screenplay), most of these scenes translate well to celluloid, but there are some moments that drag, revealing their stage origins. Regardless, the script remains beautifully written and structured. Marber's dialogue reads like a biting, lost language of cruel love. These rapid-fire lines have a distinct rhythm that may seem unrealistic on the surface, but remain riveting and truthful. There is real linearity to the events here, which are devoid of fat; we see only the critical moments of change, not the pleasant periods in between. This unforgiving framework is marvelously maintained by Nichols' experience, creating a film that feels decidedly European.
When the closing frames flicker by, Closer leaves us with a stunning message. Each character ends in a fitting state, revealing the devastating consequences of their behavior. Their quest for love is deeply flawed, but ultimately human.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Touted as a Superbit title (despite the presence of a motion menu and a bonus feature), Sony's transfer is excellent. The colors, which range from vibrant to muted, come through beautifully, showing little grain. Blacks are solid, detail is high, and haloing is minimal.
Image Transfer Grade: A
Audio Transfer Review: This is a dialogue-driven film, so the inclusion of a DTS track seems like overkill, but in the Superbit tradition, one is included with a Dolby Digital mix. The 5.1 channel tracks are front heavy, with some ambient fill in the surrounds. The film's unique use of music is well captured. There is nothing dynamic here, but this is a fine, natural mix.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 27 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
8 Other Trailer(s) featuring Guess Who, Bewitched, Hitch, Spanglish, House of Flying Daggers, The Woodsman, Being Julia, A Love Song For Bobby Long
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Extras Review: Besides a batch of trailers, including Closer's theatrical trailer, the only extra is a music video for Damien Rice's The Blower's Daughter, a wispy song that effectively bookends the film.
Extras Grade: D+
Final CommentsAn affecting, brutal, and powerful exploration of deceptive love and destructive honesty, Closer stands as one of last year's best films. Patrick Marber's play is brought to life by stunning performances and sure direction.
Matt Peterson 2005-03-28