Dumb About Life

Closer

Closer is a work — and here I mean both the play by Patrick Marber and the 2004 movie adaptation he wrote — that might be an imposing piece of art if it weren’t so fucking stupid. It’s dumb about relationships and people, boringly scabrous, and knee-jerk misanthropic. But it’s just smart enough — with its dialogue, with its unannounced leaps ahead in time, with its strikingly-sexless-but-always-about-sex structure, and with its exploration of the wisdom of truth compared to withheld information — that people who find it marginally meaningful or even profound can be forgiven.

Directed by Mike Nichols and starring Jude Law, Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, and Natalie Portman, the movie wants the audience to marvel at its daring, unflinching look at infidelity. Yet for those of us who don’t habitually cheat on our partners — and I’m guessing that’s most people — Closer is almost hilariously out-of-touch. Marber understands insecurity and expresses it well, but the relentless partner-swapping and deception in the movie make it impossible to relate to or care about the characters.

Points also get docked for the wholly un-ironic use of Damien Rice’s impossibly, incongruously earnest and heartfelt “The Blower’s Daughter” in the film’s opening and closing. (Chorus: “I can’t take my eyes off of you / I can’t take my eyes off you / I can’t take my eyes off of you / I can’t take my eyes off you / I can’t take my eyes off you / I can’t take my eyes ... .”) Closer’s characters don’t even comprehend the idea of love, let alone its mechanics, and you expect us to swallow this song? Twice?

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