Closer review by Mike Long

I typically see my reviews as a consumer tool which help readers make informed choices about movies and DVDs. I rarely try to make my views so strong that they appear to be bullying the reader. But, for my review of Closer, I must say this: WARNING! Closer is not a date movie! If you see this with your significant other, there may be some tension afterwards. If you watch it by yourself, you may find that you hate yourself. The movie is over-the-top at times, but it is definitely a powerful experience.

Closer takes place in London, and deals with the lives and relationships of four characters. Obituary writer Dan (Jude Law) meets American Alice (Natalie Portman), a stripper who has come to England on a whim, and they begin a relationship. Dan then meets a photographer named Anna (Julia Roberts) and finds himself attracted to her, although he is still with Alice. Through a bizarre coincidence, Anna meets Larry (Clive Owen), a hyper-sexual dermatologist, and they begin to date. The film takes place over a period of four years and we watch these four characters begin and end relationships with each other in a seemingly never-ending cycle of infidelity and lies.

Just in case you didn't grasp my warning above, allow me to rephrase it. If your designated movie picker sees Closer in the video store and assumes that it's a standard Julia Roberts chick-flick, or Jude Law dramedy, smack the box out of their hand. Closer is a deadly serious, hardcore movie which doesn't pull any punches as it examines the lives of these four damaged, lost souls. The film deals very frankly with relationships and sex, and there is very, very graphic language which deals with sexual acts. Some may also find the film's structure unnerving, as it leaps ahead in time with no warning whatsoever.

Playwright Patrick Marber adapted his own play for the film and director Mike Nichols has shot the film in an almost stage-like manner, as most of the scenes take place in one setting. This allows the viewer to focus on the excellent dialogue in the film. The words in the movie take on great resonance, especially those which deal with sex, and there are some great lines here. (My favorite is "I love everything about you that hurts.") The four main actors do a fantastic job in the movie, with Law and Owen really delivering. Roberts, who I usually can't tolerate, plays someone much darker than her usual role here and is actually quite good.

I mentioned above that Closer is a powerful film, and it truly is, but it's also a bit unrealistic at times. Are there people like this in real life, who are constantly drifting in-between relationships and sabotaging their own lives. Sure there are, but Closer really blows things out of proportion. But, it's this skewing of reality that makes the film watchable. We see these four attractive people who should be happy with what they have, but they keep screwing it up. This makes the movie quite frustrating, but it also draws the viewer in, as we wait to see what will happen next and wonder if these people will ever be happy. The characters in the film throw the word "love" around a lot, but it's never clear if they truly understand it. Closer isn't a fun movie, and I'm not even sure if it's an entertaining film, but it's that rare movie that takes an unblinking look at the dark side of romance and reveals just how cold and untrustworthy human beings can really be. You've been warned.

Closer cheats its way onto DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image on this disc looks very good, as it is rather sharp and clear, showing no grain nor any defects from the source material. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. There is some mild edge-enhancement to be had here, but artifacting is kept to a minimum. The DVD carries both a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, as well as a DTS 5.1 track. Both tracks provide clear dialogue, sound effects, and music reproduction with no signs of hissing or distortion. This dialogue-driven movie relies mainly on the front and center channels, but there is some nice surround sound action during the few street scenes and during an opera scene. Both tracks sound equally fine with no track being the clear winner. The Closer DVD is part of Sony's "SuperBit" line, so the only extra on the disc is a music video from Damien Rice for the song, "The Blower's Daughter". Given the magnitude of this film, it's a safe bet that we'll see a "Special Edition" with more extras in the future.

7 out of 10 Jackasses

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