Outside of the Richard Curtis comedies I can't remember a 'Hollwood' film that makes such a determined effort to showcase our capital. Yet whereas in Curtis' films the London-based leads tend to enjoy an emotional safety-net provided by a troupe of eccentric friends, the four people whose lives intersect in Closer all seem mysteriously isolated. (Are lone-wolves less constant then?)
Perhaps it's this limited depth of field that betrays this story as a former stage play. That and the fact that in a number of scenes the actors come across as mere vehicles for the words they're speaking. This is a script that's a just bit narcissistic about its own coarseness - saying fuck and cunt a lot might work better when the audience can't really see through the everyday windows to the soul - the actors' faces. The camera demands better integration of dialogue with expression, body and situation.
Only Clive Owen seems to 'live' in his role (he was part of the original stage cast), though Julia Roberts does do a creditable and actually quite moving 'sad-eyed woman in her thirties'. (She deserves an Oscar more for this role than her Erin Brockovic I think.) At one point Natalie Portman has exactly the hairstyle she had in Leon (her hair is a bit of a theme in this movie) and later lies on her back with her belly exposed - surely this was intentional on Mike Nichols part?
The action moves forward in odd chunks of time that leave you missing the lights down, lights up transitions you get in the theatre.
Anyway, I did actually really enjoy this movie. I found myself laughing a lot more than anyone else around me. Maybe I'm just more cynical than most! Marber's play was awarded the Evening Standard Best Comedy award in 1997 though.
Poor old Jude Law, the only big laugh he got was his weepy scene in the surgery and I'm not sure this was intentional. Law almost wrecks this film - in his first contact scenes with both Alice and Anna he fails to convey any real sense of excitement and risk.
It is said that with this performance Clive Owen has shoed himself in as the next 007 - hmmm, I reckon he'd be a sort of dissipated Timothy Dalton, just a tad too louche, even for the part of James Bond.
In the original play Marber's dramatis personae suggests a social commentary that goes AWOL when a pair of Americans are gratuitously introduced:
A girl from the town
A man from the suburbs
A man from the city
A woman from the country
This week survey results were published showing that more of us Londoners live alone than ever before - and Closer is in some ways a bit of a bloke's take on the ups and downs of the Bridget Jones lifestyle. Dan and Larry each get to have sex with both girls and with each other, in a trailblazing cinematic cybersex session!
One of V's favourite films is another one of Mike Nichols' meditations on war as a continuation of sexual politics by other means - Carnal Knowledge - also quite mannerist in its dialogue.