Sunday, April 01, 2007

review: closer
dir. Mike Nichols

starring: Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Clive Owen, & Julia Roberts

Don't believe your friends when they ask you to be honest with them. All they really want is to be maintained in the good opinion they have of themselves - Albert Camus

I Cancelled my cable T.V. back in October. It took Rogers a while to catch up with me, however, and I have been the luck recipient of free television until just a few weeks ago. Now, I like t.v. quite a bit; a handfull of shows that are currently airing rank amongst the cream of the entertainment crop, and the garbage that is broadcast in between tends to either grip my attention (like a car wreck) or raise my ire (which means I am employing my critical skills as a viewer). Yes, the boob tube can be a pacifier for the mind, but sometimes that's necessary. The mindless flipping of channels gives me comfort in the wee small hours of insomnia.

And yet, in some ways, I feel grateful for my loss. Don't get me wrong; if I had access to the Food Network right now I'd be funneling my energy into salivating rather than this. But if there's a boon, it's that this lack of instant stimulation has re-introduced me to my own DVD collection. I tend to be selective in what I buy. I own a lot of good movies, but I am discriminate in that I will only purchase films that I know I can watch over-and-over again.

Closer, for me, is one of those films. I will concede that this is the kind of movie that you have to be in a particular mood to watch. There are certain films that you can pop in your DVD player at any time, and even if you don't feel like watching them at the time, you get sucked in. As for me, I could do Casablanca, Chungking Express, or Jurassic Park with only a breath of hesitation.

But Closer is ferocious in its examination of human behaviour, and despite the extreme nature of the relationships in the film, the emotions are identifiably true-- and not particularly easy to confront. The characters enter their relationships with a great deal of insecurity, seeking external validation, but never fully trusting the partner who claims to love them; how can someone so wonderful be in love with me? An act of infidelity becomes a catalyst for the film to explore the mind-games "lovers" will play, both with each other and with themselves, in order to preserve a relationship that is void of trust.

In many ways, Closer is painful to watch. On the one hand, it is not easy to digest the cruelty and manipulation that the characters inflict upon one another; what is, perhaps, more disturbing is recognizing that our own insecurities are apt to have led us to some similarly dark places. But the film is successful precisely because it is so honest in its depiction of the psychology that can corrupt relationships, and the all-too-common anxieties that initiate self-destructive behaviour. I wouldn't subject myself to Closer on a whim, but it provides a powerful viewing experience and I know I will return to it often.

what you might not like: this is by no means escapist film... More than one person has expressed ill will towards me for exposing them to this movie because the subject matter hit a little too close to home. So, WARNING: Objects on screen may be closer than they appear.

what you might consider: Closer is tremendously rich. It's not a roller coaster ride, but it will take you on an emotional journey. Sometimes I need to sit down and watch a "depressing" film just as I might feel like listening to a sad, sad song. I prefer not to live in sorrow, but to vacation there from time to time is not unhealthy. Human nature is complex and interesting, and a film with these same traits might be worth experiencing.