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This one knocked me out, which surprised me as I found the trailer unbearable.   However, since I found myself at the theatre at show-time I decided to check it out rather than wait around for something else.   I braced myself for the parodistically over-dramatic howlers that’d made me wince in the trailer, but in the context of the film, “every one of those words rang true”, to paraphrase Dylan.   This is disarming stuff, stunningly acted, ranking with LaButte’s “The Shape of Things”, Bergman’s “Scenes from a Marriage”, and Cassavetes’ “Faces” as a lacerating portrait of human relationships.   I suppose we should expect nothing less from Mike Nichols, who after all directed such films as ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ and ‘Carnal Knowledge’.

“Closer” is set in London, where Natalie Portman’s character, an ex-stripper, is making a fresh start when a cabbie driving on the left knocks the unexpecting American to the feet of Jude Law, a writer.   This couple becomes entwined with a dermatologist played by Clive Owens and an American photographer played by Julia Roberts (an intelligent actress whose work I rarely get to see since she so often appears in stuff I’d run miles to avoid).   The film charts the permutations of their couplings as the characters’ stock rises and falls.   It riffs brilliantly on issues of intimates vs. strangers, victims and victors, identity, and coincidence.   Highly recommended, although it is adult in the most profound sense (though the assignations are off-screen).   Screenplay by Patrick Marber from his play.

 - Dec 17, 2004

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