As "Closer" opens (to the strains of Damien Rice's "The Blower's Daughter"), Dan (Jude Law) and Alice (Natalie Portman) are bobbing in slow-mo towards each other on a crowded London street. He's a writer - obituaries - and she's a stripper - American - with hair as red as Virginia clay. They meet; they fall instantly in love. Next up Anna (Julia Roberts) is snapping Dan for a book cover (he's taken a stab at a novel with a weak title). Dan falls hard for Anna even though she's in love with Larry (Clive Owen), a dermatologist. When Larry gets wind of this (for he does) he conspires to sleep with Alice in punitive retaliation.
What follows is a ruthless roundelay of sad, sorry people cheating on each other because they (mostly) can, hurting each other because it feels (momentarily) good, speaking in short, stagy, stifled sentences that signify strength of mind and weakness of body - nasty, mean, unlikeable sorts unafraid to brutalize or defame each significant other via graphic sexual language.
Roberts is a national treasure. Her work here is effortless - thoughtful and pure. She's the veteran, oddly enough, the glue that holds this four-character set together. It's not her very best work but she makes it look easy. The hardworking Law impresses once again, displaying a softer side to his character. With six films in the can in as many months people are clearly taking notice. Portman, as she was in "Garden State," is a delight, bringing an inner maturity to the flighty Alice. And Owen does well with a truly despicable character (having played Dan on stage).
Portman and Owen got Oscar nods for this movie, which was well deserved and in my opinion they both were thebest in their categories that year.
Overally "Closer" is a provocative, surgical examination of sex and relationships, with great performances from every four actor.