F.I.L.M. of the Week (June 18, 2010)

18 06 2010

Love.  Sex.  Desire.  Lust.  Need.

These are words we all associate together, right?  Usually one affects the other or one leads to the other.  But if you are willing to challenge your views on the connectivity of these emotions, then you will love my pick for “F.I.L.M. of the Week,” Mike Nichols’ “Closer.”  If the director alone isn’t enough to make you see this movie, just look at the poster and see all the stars.  Each and every one of them gives a fantastic performance, but one in particular really deserved an Academy Award.

The movie follows four people in London over the course of several years, particularly noting their struggles and their romances.  Alice (Natalie Portman) is an American trying to get away from stripping for a living who falls for Dan (Jude Law) after he helps her recover from getting hit by a taxi.  But Dan also has feelings for Anna (Julia Roberts), a photographer taking his picture for the book he has written many years after meeting Alice.  When she kindly refuses to be with him, Dan plays a mean-spirited practical joke on her and brings Larry (Clive Owen), a dermatologist, into the mix.  As the story unfolds, the four mix and clash in unexpected ways, all seeking some sort of truth through love.

Part of what makes “Closer” so fascinating is the plot and the dialogue.  Patrick Marber adapts his own Tony Award-nominated play for the movie, and he stays relatively close to the spirit of the stage.  The movie has a very stripped-down, bare essentials minimalism that makes us feel like we are watching actual lives unfold.  Marber has thematic depth in his screenplay and probes issues that usually only playwrights dare to do.  His dialogue is raw and unsparing, a perfect complement to the story.

However, what really makes “Closer” such an intensely satisfying watch are the actors.  Julia Roberts is scary good at being quiet and unassuming, but when that layer fades away, she is just plain scary.  Jude Law probably has the most screen time, and he makes the most of it with his compelling work.  Clive Owen is the most brutal of the bunch, rough and willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wants.  Owen plays the role with such a ferocious intensity that we never doubt his character for a second.

But the best performance of all is delivered by Natalie Portman.  It’s so much more mature than her 23 years (at the time of the release).  Alice is completely realized thanks to Portman, who really gets inside her enigmatic character to shocking success.  Whether it is anguished, upset, wanting, or hurting, Portman nails the emotion.  The role is a dramatic change of pace from her usual “good girl,” and it certainly is strange as she becomes completely absorbed in being mysterious and seductive.  She never lets us doubt it, though, as she keeps us astonished and spellbound by Alice and her quest for love.


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3 responses

19 06 2010
Addicted to Films

I love this movie. The dialogue is just ear candy. I hate that the DVD has no extras what so ever (except for the music video). No commentaries, no interviews…nothing…

I thought that Natalie Portman pretty much played Alice like the older Mathilda (complete with the bob). There’s just this brutal honesty about Alice, even when she lies.

1 01 2011
CMrok93

Closer is no joke and it’s got the brave, mature performances of an all-star cast to prove it. It’s a movie in which characters feel each other up with their hands and knock each other down with words.

1 01 2011
Marshall

This was my favorite Natalie Portman performance … and now “Black Swan” makes this look like child’s play. But child’s play for her is Oscar gold for any actress.

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