So we finally got out of the house today, to see Mike Nichols's latest film, Closer. I really liked it, for a whole range of reasons.
Aesthetically, it's fabulous. The 4 actors are cast and dressed in such a way as to suggest a spectrum of gender positions: the beautiful-enough-to-be-a-lesbian icon Jude Law opposite scruffy macho Clive Owen; and a butched-up Julia Roberts opposite waif stripper Natalie Portman. For once, Julia Roberts doesn't just look like Julia Roberts. She doesn't smile all the time. And she's wearing some great men's trousers. London, too, shines in the film -- everything looks amazing, whether old or new. Great architectural shots, etc.
It's from a play, and thus has a tight focus on just these four characters -- no one else even really appears in the film except in crowd scenes. That doesn't bother me -- in fact, with characters as interesting as these, who needs anyone else. And the actors really have worked to make this an ensemble piece. It's hard to single one of them out as superior to the rest, or to know who would count as "leads" or as "supporting." They're all really, really good.
It's a movie about and for grownups. Not just because much of it is about sex and relationships, or because of language or nudity (which is there too). But because it's about the randomness and intensity of romantic passion -- the highs and the lows. I think anyone over the age of 30 who sees it has to be able to identify with at least one of the characters, at least some of the time. These aren't necessarily people who you'd sympathize with consistently, or even like all that well. But they're familiar. Who hasn't been in a relationship and felt like they're just waiting for the other shoe to drop? Who hasn't felt cornered by a lover's questions, to the point where neither truth nor lie would satisfy? Who hasn't been tempted? Who hasn't done someone wrong, in one way or another? Who hasn't wondered exactly who your lover really was before you knew each other?
What I like best is the way the film refuses easy resolution of these questions, or the happy/unhappy ending that formulas usually demand.