London, the present day. Dan (Jude Law), a thirtysomething who writes the obituaries for a local newspaper, dreams of forging a serious writing career. He soon meets the stunning Alice (Natalie Portman) on a crowded street after she gets knocked down by a taxi in rush hour traffic; flash forward a few months and Dan's first venture into the literary world, a novel centring on his complex relationship with Alice, is about to be published and accomplished photographer Anna (Julia Roberts) is assigned to take publicity photos of him. After Dan fails to win Anna's heart during their brief meeting, he inadvertently sets up a meeting between doctor Larry (Clive Owen) and Anna – and the two fall in love. Soon enough, lines are crossed and hearts are broken as the two couples become forever entwined...
Based on one of the best plays of the '90s, Closer is a film about love – or, rather, the devastating consequences that relationships can have on the human psyche. The film shows that sex is essentially politics and the ongoing war between men and women will only end in tears – after all, the heart is "shaped like a fist, covered in blood". The concept of love, continually portrayed by Hollywood as a saccharine-sweet entity, suddenly finds itself shot to pieces and cynically reassembled through the sheer power of Patrick Marber's words. Indeed, Closer's greatest triumph is the way in which the dialogue resonates like a brick shattering a window; the characters' words send a chilling call through the spines of all who listen, a harsh but very true reality in the minds of the audience. In essence, this film manages to expose love and sex for what it really is – a brutal and emotionally-wrought experience in which deceit and betrayal are rife. Closer is not your average rom-com, suffice to say.
Marber clearly establishes that each of the four protagonists has their own faults: crater-sized flaws, in fact. As the narrative twists and weaves until the poisonous conclusion, Marber skilfully exploits these aforementioned faults until the characters must face up to their deficiencies before their world collapses around them. Closer is a film about realisation, the cold, harsh feeling that we all must experience in order to learn from our mistakes and ensure that we don't make them again; issues of trust, (in)fidelity, forgiveness and the acceptance of guilt are thus brought to the fore.
Closer is a film that anyone who has ever been in love should watch and learn from – as one critic put it, Marber writes as if he has had unlimited access to one's personal journals and deepest thoughts. In doing so, he proves that the concept of love is universal and we all essentially think and act in the same way when under the heady influence of infatuation and lust; consequently, we all make the same terminal mistakes.
The acting is uniformly excellent: it is a testament to the strength of the cast that Closer never feels inhibited by being a four-hander. The Oscar nominations that Natalie Portman and Clive Owen received were so well deserved that it was an outrage when neither of them took home their statuettes that night; nevertheless, the longstanding artistic integrity of their work will be far more palpable and rewarding than material gains. Similarly, the usually-maligned Jude Law delivers an outstanding performance as the boyishly naïve Dan, whilst Hollywood starlet Julia Roberts even manages to break her usual conventional mould to deliver something commendable.
My only criticism, churlish as it may seem, is that Closer never manages to escape from its theatrical constraints and become a fully-fledged cinematic experience. This is not because the film only has four principal actors, however, rather that Mike Nichols does not fully succeed in transferring the play's action to the open and potentially-cinematic streets of London. If the city of London had featured more, the sense of life and surroundings accentuated, then the characters' struggles in the midst of the real world would have truly come to life – the feeling that the events were deliberately claustrophobic to fit a staged environment would have been completely eradicated. As it stands, the film can still be classed as one of the best of 2004, yet if Nichols had managed to go the full distance then Closer would have become a modern classic. Marber's script, however, will rightfully be remembered and acclaimed for years to come.
Released under Columbia Tristar's Superbit label, the disc has excellent audio-visual presentation but a criminal lack of extra features.
The menus are stylish and very easy to navigate.
Presented in 1.85:1 widescreen and anamorphically enhanced, this looks excellent, just as one would expect from a modern film print. Colours are faithfully reproduced, whilst the level of detail is very pleasing. It may not be reference quality, but it definitely looks very appealing indeed.
A whole host of soundtrack options are available: DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 in English, whilst French viewers are greeted by a Stereo mix in their native tongue. It comes as no surprise to note that the DTS soundtrack is better overall, going to greater lengths to develop the soundstage than its Dolby equivalent, although both mixes do a damn good job of reproducing every word, every insult and every sob that is unleashed from the speakers. However, for a dialogue-driven film such as Closer, the most important aspect of the soundtrack is the clarity of the front channels – and both mixes present crystal-clear dialogue streams.
The only extra on offer is a music video: The Blower's Daughter by Damien Rice, which serves as a poignant accomplice to the film's themes. Beautifully sung, the video itself is very well presented and is worth watching.
A selection of trailers (or "previews") for the following films play before the main menu appears: Guess Who, Bewitched, Spanglish, Hitch, House of Flying Daggers, The Woodsman, Being Julia, A Love Song for Bobby Long and Closer itself.
Sadly, no insight into the production is present on this disc – a making-of featurette and audio commentary are both very noticeable in their absence. What hurts even more is the lack of Closer's infamous deleted scene – Natalie Portman topless.
Closer is a frank discussion on love and sex, relationships and hate. It systematically reveals the most beautiful and endearing quality of human existence whilst showcasing our ultimate fallibilities and inherent failures as people. Despite this disc lacking any substantial extra material, I wholeheartedly recommend this DVD as an essential purchase.