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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Closer, A Review

Critical darling, Closer, doesn’t deserve the praise. As an adaptation of a play, it fails on nearly every level to be a good movie: its characters are unlikable, its dialog not even vaguely resembling real life, and its emotional outbursts carefully manipulated until they have only a tenuous connection to ongoing events in the movie.

Jude Law and Julia Roberts come out of the wreckage reasonably well. They play a couple of people with serious personality and fidelity issues who do their best to ruin their own lives and the lives of those people around them. Clive Owen, a fine actor, has moments where he is not unutterably bad, although some of the worst emotional ping-pong moments belong to his character. Natalie Portman has no such redeeming moments. She is miscast, her performance is poor, and her character is written ridiculously.

It is hard to blame the actors when the script is truly hideous. The dialog is stilted and unintentionally hilarious. At one point, well into the film, Natalie Portman’s is tasked with asking, “Do you still fancy me?” The line may have worked well on a London stage, but from her mouth it simply sounded goofy and overdone. Ditto the “do you desire me/ no I do not desire you” exchange even later in the movie.

Sometimes dialog can be unrealistic while remaining compelling. The characters in The Royal Tenenbaums, for instance, often sound nothing like real life people having a conversation. Yet the dialog is clever enough, and funny enough, that the conceit comes across well. Closer has neither the charm nor wit, and the writer didn’t have the talent, to carry off the stylized dialog.

Instead, almost every line is a reminder that this, which may have worked wonderfully on stage, is just a bad adaptation. Stage plays have a kind of cadence that is anything but natural, and Closer never feels anything close to natural.

The movie is empty of moral depth or happiness, preferring to be cynical and knowing and utterly unpleasant. It is populated by an incestuous, manipulative group of selfish children, untouched by anything outside of their insular little foursome. Dumb, reprehensible, shallow, poorly done, and miserable.

Please, don’t bother.

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