Friday, December 31, 2004


We had two Lowe's movie passes left, and they were set to expire today. The catch: not valid during the first 10 days of a film's release. So sadly I had to pay 7 bucks for a MATINEE showing of Phantom the other day, and The Girl and I ended up using the passes to see Closer last night. There were other movies we wanted to see instead, but this was playing at the right time, at the right theater, and was available with the passes.

Getting there was quite a trip as well. The Girl had her drum lesson from 6:30-7:30, and the movie was playing at the Liberty Tree Mall at 7:55. According to Mapquest, the drive from the lesson to the movie is 15.71 miles (mostly highway) and a 21 minute drive. So yeah, we were cutting it close. Especially when she didn't emerge from her lesson into the parking lot where I was waiting until 7:35. But off we went. She was full of hope and optimism, but I was driving. It was actually going fairly well until traffic ground to a halt about a mile before our exit. So I took the exit before ours, and wound our way through the back roads and found our way to the mall. The Girl insisted that there would be at least 15 minutes of commercials and previews (but I love watching the previews!), so we would still make it.

Pretty good line at the ticket counter, but it moved along. Then at the entry to the theater area itself, there was some sort of confusion about Meet the Fockers. A group of kids had tickets to the just-started show, but the staff said there were no more seats. This went on for an excruciating amount of time (okay, maybe 45 seconds), but the large growling man behind us who kept shouting, "Come on, come on," sufficiently intimidated the ticket taker and he let the kids, then us, in. Theater 5, where we were headed, was of course at the far end of the very long hall, and was packed. But The Girl took charge and found us 2 seats in the middle of a row, and we sat down at 8:10. Sure enough, 15 minutes after the scheduled starting time, the feature presentation began running about 15 seconds after we sat down. I should have listened.

So anyway, the movie. About an hour in, I leaned over and whispered, "This movie kind of sucks."

So far in the awards season, Closer has won the National Board of Review award for Best Acting by an Ensemble and and was named by the NBR as one of the year's Top 10 Films, and is up for 5 Golden Globe Awards (Best Picture: Drama, Best Supporting Actress (Natalie Portman), Best Supporting Actor (Clive Owen), Best Director (Mike Nichols), and Best Screenplay (Patrick Marber). Oddly enough, I think perhaps (okay, maybe I still have a few misgivings) all these nominations and awards are due, except for the Best Picture ones. The acting was superb, the direction was great, and the dialogue was well-written. But as a whole, it just didn't work for me. It was a series of character studies of people in crisis.

The soundtrack for the film was also great, but they really should have worked in the Indigo Girls song Reunion.

I laughed as I said it
This is my situation
It's not pictures or privilege
It's just self preservation
I don't want you to feel
Any obligation
It feels so funny to be free
All you pretty pretenders
Negligent vendors
Aren't you precious inside
I have no need for anger
With intimate strangers
And I got nothing to hide

Check out the rest of the lyrics here - they're perfect for this film of intimate strangers who dance and weave and change partners over the course of four years, only revealing truth in moments of desperation, both quiet and raging. I think the only character who was really honest throughout was the one waging the most consistent deception.

Clive Owen and Jude Law are driven by testosterone, sexual obsessions, and a desire to be the alpha male by possessing the beautiful prize. But who is the most beautiful prize? Usually the one you don't have.

Natalie Portman and Julia Roberts come across as sunflowers who turn all their attention to whichever sun is shining most brightly on them at any given moment. Portman's sunflower snaps her attention quickly and without hesitation, while Roberts' is more cautious and extends the transitions. When we first meet Natalie Portman's Alice, Jude Law's Dan describes her as "disarming." I agreed, until the scene switched to Julia Robert's Anna at work in her photography studio. My definition of disarming completely changed, and I had to agree with the comparison that Clive Owen's Larry made later on, that Alice is a girl, while Anna is a woman. He describes the attractiveness of early 20-somethings as "full of the moronic beauty of youth." I would have taken Anna over Alice any day. Until Anna began to appear to have accepted her role as a chew toy to be fought over by the two burly dogs, that is.

The jumps in time were problematic for me, not because of the jumps themselves, but because of the landing points. All we see of these four characters are their moments of crisis and angst. Any brief scene of happiness is surely just a setup for the soon to follow fall. It was exhausting, and it all just left me feeling hollow and empty and disturbed. Of course, I think that's how at least three of the characters were left feeling, so perhaps that's what Nichols (whose films I generally love) was going for.

Note of caution - don't go to this movie with anyone with whom you'd feel uncomfortable reading or hearing graphic sexual language, because you'll be both reading it and hearing it throughout Closer.

Reality Check: The Girl likes disturbing movies because it reassures her in her choices, life situation and relationships. She came out of this one feeling very good about us. And she thinks that Natalie Portman is more attractive than Julia Roberts because she doesn't like Julia Roberts' big lips. But she liked the first outfit that Julia Roberts was wearing.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 9:28 AM