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Mike Nichols
Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Julia Roberts, Clive Owen
Writing Credits:
Patrick Marber (play & screenplay)

If you believe in love at first sight, you never stop looking.

A witty, romantic, and very dangerous love story about chance meetings, instant attractions, and casual betrayals. Closer is director Mike Nichols' critically acclaimed look at four strangers - Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen - with one thing in common: each other. Adapted by Patrick Marber from his award-winning stage play, Closer "vibrates with eroticism, bruising laughs, and dynamic performances. Closer is a triumph!" - Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

Box Office:
$27 million.
Opening Weekend
$7.707 million on 476 screens.
Domestic Gross
$33.987 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
French Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 104 min.
Price: $28.95
Release Date: 3/29/2005

• ďBlowerís DaughterĒ Music Video


Mitsubishi WS65315 65" TV; Pioneer VSXD409 Home Theater Receiver; Sony DVP NC665P 5 Disc DVD player; KLH Home Theater Speakers


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Closer: Superbit Edition (2004)

Reviewed by Brian Ludovico (April 11, 2005)

Mike Nicholsí big screen version of the critically acclaimed play by Patrick Marber, Closer follows the lives of four people thrown together by chance over a period of four years. The story begins with obituary writer Dan (Jude Law) who encounters a young lady named Alice (Natalie Portman) when she gets hit by a cab on the streets of London. In his kindness, Dan makes sure Alice gets to a hospital and sits with her in the emergency room. Fascinated by her beauty and her easy going friendliness, Dan strikes up a conversation that lasts for the better part of the morning. He tells her of his ambitions to write a novel, while she shares that sheís a former stripper whoís just moved to London from New York.

The next time we see them, itís a year later. Theyíre living together, and with Alice as his muse, Danís dreams of writing a novel have finally become reality. Heís immortalized her as the main character in his novel, The Aquarium. Now we find him at a photographerís studio, being shot for the jacket of his book. Danís immediately and irrationally attracted to the photographer, Anna (Julia Roberts).

Quickly he begins to flirt aggressively with her, only to be rebuffed when she finds out heís involved with someone else. Some time later, as a bit of revenge, Dan pretends to be Anna in an explicit chat room, and he sets up a meeting with stranger at her favorite spot with the promise of sex. That stranger is Larry (Clive Owen), a dermatologist with an affinity for cyber sex. As fate would have it, even after the initial embarrassment, the two of them hit it off and become involved romantically.

Four months later, we find the four characters in one place for the only time in the film, at Annaís portraiture exhibition. Dan and Alice show up under the auspices of Alice being in one of Annaís best pictures. Danís obviously there to run into Anna. While he spends a few minutes goading Anna, and Anna tells him about Larry, Larry is busy flirting with lovely Alice. Dan ends up putting Alice in a cab to go home and secretly steals back into the show. He confronts Anna and accuses her of being in love with him, not with Larry, and Anna denies it. The scene ends innocently enough with Dan leaving.

A year later, we find out quickly that Larry and Anna have gotten married, but all is not well in paradise. In perhaps the best scene in the film, Anna tells Larry the truth: she and Dan have been having an affair since before their marriage. In fact, the affair basically started the night of the exhibition. Larry explodes, understandably bullying Anna into more hurtful confessions and finally leaving. Concurrently, Dan is telling Alice the same story. Alice reacts differently than Larry, but the effect is the same: she disappears into the London night, determined never to see Dan again.

Over the next year, the four of them will spend an unhealthy amount of time obsessing about the infidelities of their partners and using one another to exact revenge. The emotional demolition they wreak upon one another is sad for all involved, and its effects are evident. These people get so emotionally tossed and turned that they all alternate between trying to emotionally assassinate each other and trying to recreate the emotional ties they originally had. In the end, only one has the guts it takes to cut loose of the situation entirely.

Closer is without a doubt the most singularly performance-driven film of the last year, maybe the last five years. The film turns entirely on the interaction of the filmís only four characters, their twisted motivations and damaged emotions, and the actorsí performances are therefore even more important than usual.

The females are outstanding. Julia Roberts gives a more emotionally textured and physically nuanced performance than her Oscar-winning turn in Erin Brockovich. I normally donít like Roberts, but the cool-headed confrontations with her co-stars really put Closer head and shoulders above her usual puff films. Portmanís performance is the most gutsy and demanding of her increasingly impressive young career. This is so far from her bored, wooden turns in the Star Wars prequel trilogy that one might question if itís the same girl. She plays the hard but brittle outer shell absolutely perfectly.

As great as the female leads are, the male leads are even more impressive. Jude Lawís Dan is emotionally fragile and uneven, immature and full of self pity thanks to his inability to commit to Alice. Itís difficult to place this performance in comparison to Lawís other efforts, mainly because heís done quality work in everything Iíve seen him in for the last five years. Law is on a mid-Eighties DeNiro-esque run right now.

Impossibly, though, this isnít the best performance in the movie. That honor goes to the stunning turn from Oscar-nominated Clive Owen. The man who was so dull and charisma-free in the junky blockbuster King Arthur is undeniably magnetic and captivating as Larry. Owen plays him with a wheel of emotion, each scene with him better than the last, save for the scene where Anna tells him the truth. I canít say enough about how great the performance in this scene was, but itís basically what got him the nomination.

Closer is a unique movie in todayís market, and in some ways, that uniqueness works against the film. For example, this film makes no attempt to find a hero or a villain in its cast. Instead, it opts simply to observe these people, each with a ton of emotional baggage, without judging them, and many American audiences will see this as lazy and indifferent. The ending of the film is another of the European-type of qualities, lacking traditional closure, instead just leaving the characters, like we were just passing through their lives.

Another unique quality is that this film is a story thatís based largely in sexual interaction, yet there isnít a single frame of explicit sex between characters. Iím surprised how well it works, actually, and the film still maintains a sexy, erotic feel. The filmís real weakness, though, is that in its European feel, it lacks the emotional punch for the characters that we got from a movie like Lost in Translation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

That lack of closure and other European qualities donít make Closer a bad movie by any means. I really enjoyed the filmís structure and very theatrical feel, and the performances alone are worth the price of admission. If youíre tired of the usual relationship tripe, Closer is certainly worth a shot.

The DVD Grades: Picture C-/ Audio B-/ Bonus D

Closer appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD and has been anamorphically enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Since intimate human dramas like this one donít normally lend themselves to visually stunning presentations, viewers will likely go into the disc with reasonable expectations of the picture. Unfortunately, those viewers will come away a little disappointed.

It would have been enough for Closer to look ďgoodĒ, and for the most part, it does. Itís set in urban London with a realistic and natural color palette, so immediately the range of video dynamics is limited. Whatís here is a very nuts-and-bolts type look, working just as well as the film requires. Picture clarity is fair, using a soft focus much of the time.

Where Closer really falters in the area of image fidelity. For a movie less than a year old - and a transfer struck this late in the digital game - thereís just far too much artifacting all over the place. There are at least six occurrences of positive artifacting noise (white splotches on the picture) and negative (or black) artifacts.

Even more abhorrent are the two occasions that show a vertical print streak; errors like these are inexcusable on such a modern movie. The low grade reflects the inexplicable defects, but unless one is really looking for them, these errors donít actually detract from the casual viewing experience.

While the video was a bit of a disappointment even with the built-in low expectations, the audio is much closer to the mark. Again, dialogue movies like this one focus so closely on the relationships between the characters that they donít light up the six channel mix. That makes the inclusion of both the discís DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks a little confusing.

Movies like Closer rarely utilize audio panning or tons of localization in the rear stage, and most of them never flip the subwoofer on at any time. For the most part, Closer meets the audio standards without ever exceeding them. In direct scene-to-scene comparisons, in fact, there is virtually no notable difference between the Dolby and DTS mixes. Both the DTS and the Dolby Digital do a dutiful job in recreating the filmís main driver, the dialogue, with extreme clarity and excellent fidelity. Directional effects are predictably minimal, almost nil save for a few echo effects during the argument between Larry and Anna. The film features a largely classical score that the tracks use as their highlights, sounding absolutely phenomenal.

Sadly, the only extra on the disc is the music video for the filmís theme song, ďBlowerís Daughter.Ē With all the extra footage that I know Closer director Mike Nichols originally filmed - yes, including some much racier footage with Natalie Portman - this is a special edition waiting to happen.

With the somewhat low technical marks on this edition of Closer, the wealth of extra material not included on this disc and Columbiaís history of double and triple dipping overpriced titles, itís not easy for me to recommend this version of the DVD. Though the movie is a strong effort with some powerhouse performances and an intriguing story, itís not the kind of movie that has the memorable punch or meaning to really warrant on-demand viewing. Itís the kind of movie viewers will find themselves drawn to watching on premium cable or renting instead.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 20
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