I liked Closer, but I certainly didn't love it. I saw it last night with Elizabeth after we had a surreptitiously truncated excursion into the Beverly Center. Why on Earth a shopping mall would close at 6:00p in December is incomprehensible to me. I expect better of West Hollywood.
Closer, as you may know, is a witty, biting, venomous play by Patrick Marber, and the play I directed as my senior project when I got my undergrad. At least I see it as biting and venomous. The movie is only a tad vitriolic. It definitely has its moments, and the really cool scene that is my favorite at the end of Act I remains intact and still packs a punch, but a reviewer used the phrase "Neil LaBute Lite" on Friday and I think that's fairly accurate here. I never liked Neil LaBute and I still don't, so maybe that's an insult... perhaps I just think the movie is Closer Lite. A lot of the vulgarity is edited out... not all of it, mind. There is certain stuff at which I still cringe, but the movie uses the word "fuck" only about half the time the play does, and there isn't any sex in the flick at all.
This was the biggest disappointment for me watching the movie. If it were my movie I would have done so much differently it's not even funny: starting with there would've been some sex, baby. Also, and Elizabeth pointed this out so don't think I came to such a realization alone, I think I see the material in a completely different way than Mike Nichols did. For me, the play is about poison and us hurting other people because we can, and it's about lying and when we should lie and when we should tell the truth. For Mike Nichols (again, this is Elizabeth speaking), the play is about love and cheating. When I directed it, Closer was very much not about love, and I still see the material as not about love.
Clive Owen is fabulous in the movie and will definitely be nominated for an Academy Award.
Julia Roberts and Jude Law are excellent: note-perfect, actually, and though their chances are less sure with AMPAS, they are not undeserving.
Natalie Portman is way better here than she is in, say, Attack of the Clones, but not nearly as great as she was in Garden State and Cold Mountain. The role is flashy, though, and chances, I would say, look good for her to be nominated as well.
Look for the screenplay to nab a nomination and one of the Damien Rice songs (the main one in the film "Blower's Daughter"--whatever that means--is not original) but I think he wrote one or two others.