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New Film <i>Closer</i> Explores Dark Side of Romance

  • Alan Silverman

An award-winning play about modern romantic relationships comes to the screen co-starring Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman, Jude Law and Clive Owen. Alan Silverman has a look at the romantic drama Closer.

Jude Law is Daniel, a newspaper obituary writer and aspiring author, who is instantly smitten when he meets Natalie Portman as American free spirit Alice on a London street corner.

A year into their relationship, Alice has given him the inspiration to write a novel; but when he goes for the book jacket photo to the studio of photographer Anna, played by Julia Roberts, love at first sight strikes Daniel all over again.

It gets even more complicated when Daniel manipulates a chance meeting between Anna and a doctor named Larry, played by Clive Owen.

As the relationships criss-cross, each lover reveals more of him or herself than any of them imagined possible.

Jude Law says he was drawn to Closer by its raw depiction of the often funny, often dark places romance can go.

"What is fun for me is the challenge," Law confides, "but I have a couple of memories of this that were quite dark days, actually. That is the strange thing about this job sometimes: if you get through that and feel like you've kind of approached that or touched on it, you go home feeling kind of proud and at least like you've given in your all."

He adds, "I think the honesty in it means that you can come out of it, hopefully, having learned something or felt something; and that's a positive."

"It's pretty funny too. It's dark, but the way people behave is funny to watch, funny to recognize and to relate to," says Natalie Portman. She adds that Alice's liberties with the truth add a layer of complexity to the actor's usual task of deceiving the audience.

"In this piece in particular, because there are so many lies, you start questioning whether every little piece of language is true or not," she explains. "There are certain lines where I just took for granted that it was something she felt or was true about her; and then you start questioning everything and whether she was making it up on the spot or if this is something she made up a long time ago. There are many layers of lying."

Clive Owen, who was in the original London stage production, says the straightforward dialog may be disturbing because it is familiar.

"It's very easy to step back and say 'oh look at those four people doing those awful things to each other;' but I think if you're very honest and you look at it, one of the most striking things is that in each of those awful, terrible scenes, if you're a guy or a girl of a certain age with any sort of emotional history, you've been through some of those. You've been in that place," he says. "Maybe you were the one that betrayed or maybe you were the one that somebody came home to and said 'sorry, I'm going. I've been having an affair.' You have been to those places and this sort of weird, dark movie that some people talk about this film as being . . . you relate to it and maybe it's shocking and upsetting because you do."

Closer is written by Patrick Marber, adapted from his acclaimed stage play. The film is directed by Oscar, Emmy and Tony winner Mike Nichols.

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