- tagline of Closer
You'd think a movie about the darker side of love (if indeed, you could call it that) - its callousness, its casual cruelty, its capriciousness (and all other words starting with c) - wouldn't be the kind of movie that I'd be longing to see. In most cases, you'd be right. However, I've been wanting to see Closer for the longest time since it was released here in Singapore, and not least because of the gorgeousness of Jude Law.
The film starts off to the strains of Damien Rice's heartbreakingly beautiful The Blower's Daughter. A young woman - a girl even - mesmerises Dan (Jude Law) as she walks down the street towards him. They exchange shy smiles and and in a typically American move, having looked the wrong way, she steps off the curb right into the path of an oncoming car. He rushes up to her, aghast and as he reaches out to her prone body, she comes to, looks straight into his eyes, smiles slightly and says oh-so-sexily, "hello, stranger."
And thus, the relationship between Dan and the young woman (Alice, played by Natalie Portman) begins. As Dan accompanies her to the emergency room, we find out that he's an obituary writer and an aspiring novelist while Alice, a former stripper and self-described waif, has recently arrived in London from New York. A brief, charming courtship takes place between the two after they leave the hospital. They chat and they flirt; in one great scene when Dan is describing his work (in astonishment that anyone would ever be interested in his kind of job), Alice reaches out, takes off his glasses, breathes on them, cleans them and places them back on his face, all done with a tender, flirting kind of grace.
We fast forward a year or so later. Dan is getting his picture taken by Anna (Julia Roberts), a professional photographer, for a book he's written - a book inspired by Alice's life. He's clearly entranced by Anna, and they end up kissing, even though he admits a couple of minutes later that Alice is "lovable and impossible to leave." When Alice turns up to meet him, he brings her to meet Anna. She recognises the danger her relationship is facing, especially when she overhears the conversation in which he tells Anna, "I've got to see you again."
In one of the most enduring moments of the movie, Alice gets Anna to take her picture, sending Dan on his way. While her picture is being taken, the two ladies talk about Anna's life and work and all seems well until Alice turns on Anna, revealing that she knows about Anna and Dan's indiscretion. Anna apologises and attempts to reassure Alice, but Alice, against a backdrop of a gray daylight filtering in through the window, snaps, "Just take my picture!" and we are left to stare at her tear-streaked face, seemingly vulnerable, yet guarded.
Later, in a thoroughly amusing scene, Dan, after having been rejected by Anna, is in an Internet chatroom, masquerading as a sex-hungry female... by the name of Anna. Larry (Clive Owen, who plays Dan in the play) , a dermatologist and first-time sex chatroom user, ends up his victim that night. Everything about the cybersex scene (the words, the furtive way Larry glances around his office to make sure no one else can see what he's doing, the cool-as-a-cucumber expression on Dan's face as he types out his "orgasm") is hilarious. It is through this exchange that Larry gets to meet the real Anna and they end up getting into a relationship with each other.
The love quadrangle is now complete. A few years later, Dan has left Alice for Anna, who is now married to Larry. When she tells him, almost fearfully, that she's leaving him for Dan, Larry brutishly, violently interrogates her about her sexual relationship with Dan until she, defeated by the barrage of questions, acknowledges that Dan is "sweeter" and "gentler". In that moment, the love he has for her dies. "Thank you for your honesty," he says,"now, f*** off and die, you f***ed-up slag."
We see many more of this kind of scenes to follow, scenes in which the the need to know and the truth end up destroying relationships. "What's so great about the truth? Try lying for a change - it's the currency of the world," one character bitterly asserts. "Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking off her clothes.... but it's more fun when you do," another coyly admits.
I could go on but I'd end up giving the whole story away, so it's best if you just go and catch it.
Let me conclude by saying that this film doesn't showcase love in all of its glory. It shows us how brutal and tough it can be, how insensitive people in love can be to everyone one else, how manipulative people can get after they've been hurt, and above all, how fragile love is. In an instant, everything can change. In a moment, love can end.