- 25 Jan 05
Less a love triangle than a love rhombus where Ms. Portman and Clive Owen supply the more jagged, pointy bits at the bottom, Closer’s barbed kisses and point-scoring, succubi sex recall Mike Nichols’ earlier scathing sexual treatises,
Two years ago, I had to be physically restrained for several months when the phrase “she bewitches like Natalie Portman in her prime” found its way into common usage in certain laddish quarters. Presumably the same Leon-loving, Loaded-reading twits who deemed her an old hag at fourteen will have absolutely no interest now she’s pole-dancing, goddess-like, at the grand old age of twenty-three, in this compellingly caustic relationship drama. As if. They don’t deserve her, they really don’t.
Less a love triangle than a love rhombus where Ms. Portman and Clive Owen supply the more jagged, pointy bits at the bottom, Closer’s barbed kisses and point-scoring, succubi sex recall Mike Nichols’ earlier scathing sexual treatises, Carnal Knowledge and Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? But those were just piddling battle of the sexes films. This deft adaptation of Patrick Marber’s hit play, on the other hand, stages a take-no-prisoners, scorched earth inter-gender war between its four protagonists, reminiscent of one of La Bute’s spats.
In one corner, we have Jude Law’s Dan, an obituary writer who falls in love with Natalie Portman’s enigmatic, waifish stripper, just in from New York. Skip forward a year and he’s betraying her with Julia Roberts. Then he’s having anonymous online sex with Clive Owen’s sexually carnivorous dermatologist. Then Clive marries Julia and so on, until everybody’s been fucked and fucked over by everybody else.
As profanities are liberally exchanged and the wormwood festers you can sit back and marvel as Julia, America’s vanilla sweetheart, says things that never quite made it in to the screenplay of Pretty Woman. The moment where she raises the relative merits of her lovers’ semen (“The same as yours, but sweeter”) would alone make Closer worthwhile. But this isn’t a Julia film. Her character is the sketchiest among the gang of four and while, like Jude Law, she can look suitably ashen, like something foul is just gnawing away at her innards, Closer is very much the Owen and Portman show.
The exuberant spite of it all will, by turns, sweep you off your feet and knock you on your arse. Still, I was left puzzled by a couple of anomalies. Surely, the characteristically forlorn strains of Damien Rice were hardly ideal bookends for such a nasty, jaundiced journey through betrayal? This is, however, considerably less bewildering than the idea of a bloke dumping the heartstoppingly beautiful Natalie for the trout queen.
100mins. Cert 18. Opens January 21st.