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Closer

May 27, 2010

Sometimes, a film gets under my skin and begs to be tasted again, long after the first fruitful encounter.

I can’t really explain why or how this comes to be, except that when it happens, there is little I can do to resist before giving in. In a way it must fit into the chaos of my life somehow, in a way I want to believe that it does.

Closer (2004), written by Patrick Marber, directed by Mike Nichols, not only gets under your skin, but stays there. It is a film that talks about truth and lies, in a world where neither can ever be certain. The dialogue is so ferociously brutal that you can’t believe real people are uttering them, but they are. The words are utterly devastating and almost…delightful. Yes. I found, no, present tense — find — the film utterly delightful. Like biting into a peach and tasting the fuzz on it, something so instinctively repulsive but…real.

So it is.

Dan (Jude Law), Alice (Natalie Portman), Anna (Julia Roberts), Larry (Clive Owen).

Four gorgeous, intelligent, competent people with their wits about them. Four adults who desire others, and know that they are desirable. Four persons who want what they want, and have it. Four human beings who hurt and are hurt in return. Four unique individuals, each armed with his/her quirks, habits, charms, wits. Four souls, each chasing something he/she somehow has compromised too much to acquire.

I can’t take my eyes off of you.

That may be true. Dan and Alice catch each other’s glances walking down the street. In slow motion, we watch the silent recognization, the small smiles, the wordless tangle of desire. She walks in front of a car. He falls to his knees. It is all so very dramatic. Romantic, I think that’s what they call it. “Hello, Stranger.” She opens her eyes and sets her gaze on him. He can’t take his eyes off of her.

I can’t take my eyes off of you.

There is no more thoughts to be had. Anna and Larry stand in an aquarium. Good for picking up strangers, Dan muses. Larry is looking for someone. His gaze falls on Anna, and he is fixated. She wasn’t who he was looking for, or, maybe she was. “You’re bloody gorgeous.” Anna looks at Larry incredously. She takes his photo. “It’s my birthday,” she says. He buys her a balloon. She laughs. Her gaze settles.

I can’t take my eyes off of you.

Nothing else matters. “I need to see you,” Dan demands to Anna, standing in her studio. She is the photographer. He is the subject. But even through the lens she can feel his gaze burning into her. There is no place to hide.  “Come here.” He says. And she lifts her feet. It is that simple. Come to think of it, neither of them even bothered to try.

I can’t take my eyes off of you.

Larry descends stairs into the pit of his despair. He is lonely, and he has come to seek company. In a strip club, he found Alice. In a private room, he tries to buy intimacy. “I want you to tell me your name,” He slips a bill onto her black lacy garter, “Please.” — “Thank you,” She enunciates. “My name is Jane.” — “Alice, tell me something true.” He searches furiously. — “Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking her clothes off, but it’s better if you do.” She smiles, like an angel.

I can’t take my eyes off of you.

They find each other, and lose each other. With fancy words and articulate prose, they meander through corridors of hearts with glib and ease, harboring a sense of invincibility. They can’t help it. They can’t help possessing sharp instincts, fierce intelligence, charming manners, and good looks. They were born with such advantages that others only dream of. They know that, and they use them to their full advantages, ruthlessly, endlessly. Words are flicked like daggers in the game of love, and wounds are licked in silence.

Anna: “You seem like a cat that got the cream and can’t stop licking itself.” Larry: “That’s the nastiest thing you’ve ever said to me.” 

I can’t take my eyes…

“I’m horrible. I’m so sorry.”

And so it is. Just like you said it should be.

They seek the truth. “Because I’m addicted to it,” Dan says. “Because without it, we are animals.” Isn’t it ironic that it is in the search of truth that they do each other all the harm they can stand. “Why did you tell me?” They ask, knowing the answer as well as the question. Lies are too mediocore for their sophistication. They seek something higher. Something more. Except the truth doesn’t set them free and only binds them further in their self-invented web of misery. The truth alone does not elevate the validity of your emotions. Without a sense of honor, the truth is just another empty word, like love.

“I love you.” — “Where? Show me. Where is this love? I can’t see it. I can’t touch it. I can’t feel it. I can hear it. I can hear some words, but I can’t do anything with your easy words. Whatever you say, it is too late.”

They are all too late. Each, every one of them. Too late in holding onto the trust that was gathered. Too late in stopping before the invisible boundary of commitment. Too late in believing in the promise of starting over. Too late in leaving the past. Too late in hanging onto the present. Too late in securing a future. Too late. Too many baggages. It is all too late.

Trust are recklessly pelted out as chips. They are not earned. They weight nothing.

In the end, we see a girl walking down the street. Her hair down. Her stride wide. She is in a white fitted tee – fresh-faced, gorgeous, innocent. All eyes are on her. Men can’t help but look longingly as they pass her by.  

Then, she comes to an intersection. A single red hand flashes.

The warning sign is clear. The question is, can you see it?

And when you do, what do you do?

I can’t take my mind off of you.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. May 27, 2010 12:35 PM

    Nor can I take my eyes off you, Gracie. Good job! XOXOX

  2. May 27, 2010 2:10 PM

    Back when I made my list for the best films of the decade, this took the number one spot. It’s an amazing film. http://blog.onehitkill.com/2010/01/best-films-of-decade.html

  3. May 27, 2010 3:58 PM

    Funny, I was thinking of this song when you keep repeating that refrain: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PzpWKAGvGdA

    This movie was recommended to me by another friend of mine, so it’s on my radar. :-)

  4. May 27, 2010 4:44 PM

    Roger Ebert just linked this… I’m glad he did. Your review is amazing. Thanks.

  5. May 27, 2010 5:06 PM

    To be honest, I didn’t really warm to Closer when I first saw it, and I haven’t felt much of a desire to see it again. But now, I don’t feel like I have to, either, because your post on the film expresses the ideas and themes in the film far more beautifully than the film itself does, imo. So yeah, nice job!

    Grace: um…I don’t want to get sued…so maybe you should give it another shot :)

    • June 15, 2010 12:46 AM

      I agree with you regading not warming up to the movie part. Could it be that too much was revealed in the movie? It feels like the veil has been lifted off, the true nature of emotions was broken down to the integral parts, the drive behind feelings was labeled as jealousy. The beauty was taken away.

  6. jayne permalink
    May 27, 2010 8:02 PM

    beautiful lyrical prose
    so personal
    gut wrenching
    love your style

    Grace: Thank you.

  7. May 27, 2010 9:31 PM

    Grace, this is a beautiful piece. I watch ‘Closer’ every few months (it’s one of my favorite movies)… I think you’ve done a wonderful job illustrating the movie in summary.

  8. May 28, 2010 1:21 PM

    It’s been awhile since I’ve watched Closer, but your review immediately reminded me why I love it so much – the dialogue. Maybe people don’t actually talk like that in real life, but some of their words sting so much that it must be real.
    Your writing is as luscious as the movie itself, and I think your blog just keeps getting better!

    Grace: oh, I think people must talk like that in real life. Too often movies are a prettified version of real life.

  9. H.W. permalink
    May 28, 2010 8:27 PM

    Excellent review Grace. Look forward to more.

    H.W.

    Grace: Thanks.

  10. Tiko permalink
    May 29, 2010 8:51 PM

    I really like the way the characters in Closer looks selfish. They realize that they need other people’s affection to make them feel alive yet they keep their true face to themselves. It’s sad yet true. Damien Rice’s The Blowers Daughters is absolutely one of the best OST I’ve heard. It blends really well with the film’s emotions.

  11. June 7, 2010 5:16 AM

    An excellent review. I always feel sorry for Alice. Why Anna gets everything? :(

  12. June 8, 2010 5:39 PM

    This is a movie I really took to because of the ferocious dialogue, and have now seen it three times. I recently watched Nichols’ “Virginia Woolf,” and while there was great dialogue in that film as well, I found it a tad less dramatically gripping. Something about the pacing and movement of “Closer” makes it a more rewarding watch for me. Granted, this is only after one viewing of “Virginia Woolf,” but at the same time, immediately after I watched “Closer” for the first time, I knew it was something special.

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