In late 1950s New York, Tom Ripley, a young underachiever, is sent to Italy to retrieve Dickie Greenleaf, a rich and spoiled millionaire playboy. But when the errand fails, Ripley takes extreme measures.
Smart-but-ineffectual journalist Dan "We use euphemisms!" cannot decide between his girlfriend, loving-but-clingy waitress Alice, or his lover cold-but-intellectual photographer Anna; herself indecisive between Dan and honest-but-thuggish "You're bloody gorgeous!" doctor Larry. The film puts the four leading characters in a box and strips them apart.Written by
I've seen Closer described as a cinematic triumph, but it's precisely not. The film wears its theatrical origins on its sleeve, and the presence of the camera is mostly irrelevant.
It also fails in a more subtle way. Initially, I watched four apparently amoral people, devoid of depth or shame, being clever at each other in increasingly hurtful and exploitative ways, and my mind rebelled. This can't be right, I thought, people don't talk like this. Hell, people don't *act* like this.
Then the light dawned. The characters seemed inhuman because they are. They aren't people at all, they're philosophical positions. When they talk, they're not talking. They're saying the things that people only dare think, asking the questions that haunt anyone whose relationship has gone horrifically pear-shaped. This isn't the story of four people and four relationships, it's an attempt to compress everything the author believes about human relationships into a film and bend it into a story. It feels artificial because it is.
With that realisation, I actually began to enjoy it, because Closer is a very clever film. I wish I could disagree with more of it, because many of the things it has to say about human relationships are painfully true. Every mistake you've ever made in a relationship is in here, and it's guaranteed to make you squirm at least once. It's also blackly funny in many places.
Without exception, the performances are fantastic, with the honours going to Natalie Portman's emotionally scarred escapist who wears lies like they were armour, and Clive Owen's brutal, perceptive, and ultimately absolutely human dirty doctor.
Be warned! The marketing campaign may lead you to think it's a comforting rom-com, but it's not. I wouldn't advise going with your partner unless you're rock-solid. You may leave asking some uncomfortable questions, and wondering how well you really know them...
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