Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Closer

MPAA Rating: R for sequences of graphic sexual dialogue, nudity/sexuality

Reviewed by: Jonathan Rodriguez
CONTRIBUTOR

Extremely Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Comedy, Drama
Length:
1 hr. 41 min.
Year of Release:
2004
USA Release:
______
Featuring: Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Clive Owen, Michael Haley
Director: Mike Nichols
Producer: Cary Brokaw, Robert Fox, Mike Nichols, Scott Rudin
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
Copyright, Columbia Pictures
Copyright, Columbia Pictures
Copyright, Columbia Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Columbia Pictures
Relationship issues
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Discover biblical answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more.

How can I deal with temptations? Answer

Should I save sex for marriage? Answer

What are the consequences of sexual immorality? Answer

“If you believe in love at first sight, you never stop looking.”

Impulse reigns supreme in “Closer,” the new film by Mike Nichols. The four central characters have no regard for their loved ones, or their feelings, and go about doing whatever makes them happy, whatever brings them the most pleasure at that very moment. If it means sleeping with someone else, well, who cares? Everyone can be understanding when it comes to adultery. Right?

“Closer,” tells the story of two couples, Dan and Alice, played by Jude Law and Natalie Portman, and Larry and Anna, played by Clive Owen and Julia Roberts. Dan, an obituary writer, meets Alice, an American stripper, who gets hit by a cab while crossing a London street. He takes her to the hospital, and afterwards they wander the streets of London; he apparently oblivious to the fact that he is missing work to talk to this beauty. He, of course, doesn’t mind, and in the next scene we learn that, off screen, the two have moved in together and Dan has written a novel about his relationship with Alice.

I suppose if anything is to blame for the mess that is to follow (besides the blazing hormones), it is that wretched book, which sets up a photo shoot with photographer Anna. He wants Anna immediately, and makes it obvious. She initially tries to ignore it, but then gives in and kisses him, briefly. The kiss sparks an even more intense desire for Anna—we believe he would have left Alice in a heartbeat had Anna asked him to—but she says she doesn’t want to pursue the relationship any further. More time passes off screen, and Anna meets Larry in a bizarre encounter at an aquarium she frequents. They hit it off, and begin a relationship of their own.

The four are brought together at an exhibit featuring Anna’s photos. Dan and Anna once again hit it off as they chat secretly near the stairs, and sparks fly between Larry and Alice in front of one of the photos. After that, the lies and adulteries begin. Each person cheats on their significant other, and lies about it until they feel it is a convenient time to admit they no longer have feelings for their “loved” ones. The four swap places, basically, and go back and forth, until we are left wondering why on earth they would take each other back after all the cheating.

“Closer” is a graphic film from beginning to end. Sexual dialogue is rampant throughout, and at times, extraordinarily vile. In particular, a scene involving two of the stars chatting in a London sex chat room had people in the theater I was at heading for the exits. Nudity is shown in the background of the strip club where Alice works, and the film’s profanity is constant. The one good thing, I suppose, is that for a film obsessed with sex, there isn’t a single sex scene to be found. Having said that, in all honesty, this film ranks up there as one of the most morally offensive films I have ever seen.

There was one somewhat moral moment in the film . After Dan admits his initial infidelities to Alice, she reminds him that there is a single moment that comes when someone is tempted where they have the opportunity to say yes or no. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” A little self control would have gone a long way with this group. [See our article: How can I deal with temptations?]

The content isn’t the only thing that bothered me in “Closer.” The film is based on a play by Patrick Marber, and Mike Nichols has brought the feel of the stage to this film. Very long periods of time occur off screen, and while at first it seems like an interesting approach, it quickly becomes annoying as we realize that all the interesting parts of these character’s lives are occurring off camera. It’s like Nichol’s and his crew only came in to shoot the scenes where people admitted they were cheating on each other, and decided to skip anything that may have proven to us that the characters actually loved each other at one time.

“Closer,” whether on purpose or by accident, makes its characters so repulsively vile that we honestly do not care what happens to them. To say that the characters had it coming to them is an extreme understatement. We sit back, rather detached from the proceedings, like voyeurs, watching bad people ruin there lives and the lives of those around them.

I suppose the title is somewhat ironic, considering we have not been brought any closer to these characters by watching them “suffer,” and the characters certainly have not gotten much closer either. The film doesn’t involve us, so when it ends, we have not been moved, or enlightened, or even depressed; we simply do not care.

While the performances are great, most notably Owen and Portman, they cannot save this film. “Closer” is one of the most disappointing films I have seen in a long while, and will be one Christians will want to steer clear of. “Closer,” which is rated R for sequences of graphic sexual dialogue, nudity/sexuality and language, gets a D+.

Violence: None / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Extreme

Viewer Comments
Negative—I was extremely disappointed in this movie. My mother and I walked out of the theatre about half way through because it was so disgusting. I was sure a Julia Roberts movie was safe, she has a good record of winners, but this is definitely not one of them. Save your money.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/2]
—Michelle, age 26
Positive—Considering the London stage from which “Closer” was adapted, the film is moderately well-done in terms of photography and production. Jude Law and Natalie Portman easily lead the way, especially with a solid no-longer-a-girl performance by Portman.

However, like handful of other films (“Requiem for a Dream,” “Thirteen,” or “Magnolia”) notable for offensive content, “Closer” wins because of its brilliant portrayal of human frailty and depravity. “Closer” takes its exposition to a very intimate and personal level, too—we see selfishness and self-protectiveness savage and destroy the four main characters. Some myopic reviews of the film dwelt on the cycle of love and self-centeredness that never is resolved—the reviewers called it “droning,” and so it is.

Isn’t that the point Mike Nichols makes? We’re not supposed to positively identify with anyone in “Closer.” We don’t want to be them because they exemplify the worst things we see in ourselves. We never want to think we’re so shallow, childishly vengeful, or so completely self-centered. “Closer” shows ultimately, on its own, the human heart is not enough for happiness or bliss.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/3½]
—David Linhardt, age 23
Negative—I don’t know why I bothered going to see Mike Nichol’s “Closer.” I saw the play on Broadway, and was offended by the language and the content. At least I knew to go alone to the movie. I was embarrassed to attend the play with a friend, wondering how do we discuss something like this afterwards?
I did have to laugh during the play at some unintended irony. The doctor was guilty of so many things, but the only time the playwright made any kind of judgment was when the doctor said he was stepping outside England’s universal health care system to see a private patient. You would have thought he was planning a twenty first century holocaust. the guy abused his wife, cheated on her, preoccupied himself with pornography, and was an all around brut and bore—that was okay—he was getting in touch with those inner needs and desires—but he dared to tweak a piece of politically correct dogma, and that was portrayed as deserving a lightening bolt. I should have known: “Closer” was perfect fodder for Hollywood.

Dressed up by Mike Nichols and a “respectable” cast, it’s still just dressed-up fodder. But it says something about where Hollywood’s values lie. The Hollywood scribes annoint themselves as spokespeople and judges of society, but they avoid and reject any judgments of the edicts of the sexual revolution that they continue to cherish and celebrate—as we’ve seen in “American Beauty,” “Kinsey,” and now “Closer.”
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/1½]
—Jim O’Neill, age 51
Negative[This person did not view this film.] I have a question gave a “positive” review for this film. Would you sit next to Jesus and watch it? I always check this site and screenit.com which is more detailed. I can’t imagine any christian giving this a positive rating based on the language and the sex involved. We see and hear enough of the bad side of human nature without subjecting ourselves to more. When do we quit compromising and start being different. Jesus said we are to be in the world and not of it. Can anyone tell we are different? One thing I notice is that films like this seen to get more positives the younger the audience. Are we slowly slipping further down the slope of morality?
—George, age 41
Positive—“CLOSER” directed by Mike Nichols, is in my opinion, one of the BEST films of 2004, following aptly on the heels of ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, GARDEN STATE and FINDING NEVERLAND. Different films, each one of them, however, there is a similar quality binding them together… excellence and quality in filmmaking.

It was very difficult to allocate a “MORAL RATING” to this particular film. I’ll be completely upfront, the content is tremendously risqué, abruptly sexual and all in all, disgusting. Several will walk out of the film and feel very uncomfortable by the topics of discussion throughout the film. And you know what? I am VERY glad the film has that effect on people. I’m glad it makes them uncomfortable. I’m glad they refuse to sit idly and take it in as pure entertainment, paying no mind to the moral debauchery ensuing around them (AMERICAN PIE, EURO-TRIP, etc.)Funny how we can sit through PG-13 “teen comedies” chock full of innuendo, sexual reference, and tasteless jokes, yet rant and rave about how anyone claiming to be a Christian should stay far away from a film of this kind.

I am NOT, by any means, recommending ALL Christians to go out and see this film. However, I am saying take a closer look at what’s going on. The film follows the externally attractive lives of Dan (Jude Law), Alice (Natalie Portman), Dr. Larry (Clive Owen) and Anna (Julia Roberts), all of which are seeking “Love” in physical pleasure. Oh sure, they can throw the term “Love” around like there’s no tomorrow, but each one of them are tremendously deceived as to what Love’s true meaning is.

1 Corinthians 13 is entirely absent from this film and EACH character suffers for their disdain and ignorance to what TRUE love really is. I LOVE that the film seeks “Truth” and that in the light of Truth, each character unravels and comes to terms with his or her sins. It’s not pleasant, but the consequences for idly pursuing desire and lust NEVER are. Yet, the characters persist in their sinful ways and what happens? Four destroyed lives.

Portman’s ALICE character—a stripper—the one the world would label as disgusting, in the end, exhibits a brief understanding of what true love REALLY is and makes one of the most profound statements I’ve heard in secular entertainment as of late. She mentions a moment each of us have before giving into temptation, where we have the power to TURN AWAY or GIVE IN. Loved it.

The performances were especially strong, from all sides. The screenplay may detour some viewers, seeing that “CLOSER” is adapted from a play BY the playwright, so the language is extraordinarily theatrical, but at the same time, it’s extremely beautiful.

This is a film that treats you like an adult, and I am an unabashed supporter. As a Christian, it’s a beautifully haunting portrait of four lives that strive to get CLOSER and CLOSER to what True love is, but continue to fall short because of their irresistible attraction to pleasure—to be dominated—to be repressed—to be fickle—it’s a film about complacency—jealousy—lust—envy and for every sin that’s committed, consequences ensue. In short, CLOSER glorifies no sin. If anything, it reveals the futility of Christ-less love and warns one to think twice before harking the world’s philosophies of “follow what you feel” or “love at first sight.”

Just examine the tagline: “If you believe in love at first sight, you’ll never stop looking.” Need I say more.
My Ratings: [Average/5]
—Larry, age 21
Positive—…Listen, adultery is sin. It’s not an “A” or a “B” list sin. It’s sin. Sin doesn’t have categories. But what this movie proves is how many lives can be affected by the simplest, guttural and most profound of our personal menu of sins—wrestling with hormonal demons. God wants us to experience love. I think there’s a pretty healthy quality to lusting after your mate. Obviously, lusting after someone else’s mate is where the problem reigns. I am human. Married men or women who say they don’t have lust issues are in denial. The difference obviously comes when you make the CHOICE to act out those passions.

“Closer” should be mandatory viewing for cheating spouses and those contemplating it. Yes, it’s mature and sometimes profane - but so is our thought life. When I walked out of “Closer” I felt depressed and bewildered. There was not one admirable quality in any of the film’s characters. But days later I still couldn’t get the film and its haunting title song (“Blower’s Daughter” by Damien Rice) out of my head. Maybe this was a two hour journey into the mush of my brain I didn’t want to journey to. Maybe it was nothing more than my being manipulated by the very cheeky director, Mike Nichols. Maybe it was nothing more than it was intended to be—a look inside our worst impulses and the havoc that making the wrong decisions can bring to other’s lives—others we love and care for. Maybe.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/4]
—Mark, age 46
Negative—I watched this movie for all of 20 minutes before I left the theatre. Not only was it extremely uncomfortable to be watching the sex “chat” scene, but as a Christian seeing it with another Christian, I felt it was morally wrong to stay through the whole movie. It was pure evil, and I hope no one else sees this movie. I give it an F
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/2]
—Myn, age 25
Positive—I watched this movie a few weeks ago. I like Clive Owen and Natalie Portman so I thought it would be good. I felt weird watching it, I almost walked out because some of the language is very hard to listen to. Its very corse and hard and if you have had a sheltered life then it would be hard to stomach.

Saying that it does show something quite unique. It shows what love is not, and what often love is perceived as. I loved the point where Portman (as an ex striper) pointed out that there was a point that you could make a choice either to sin or not. I wouldn’t recommend it for many people, but if you are a, I don’t know, not naive person then it’s okay.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/5]
—Rob Walshe, San Diego, age 32

Comments from young people
Negative—As a young high school student of only 17 years old, I have found that any film receiving an “R” rating is definitely not worth my time; the spirituality of an adolescent is unstable and still at growth, and such a destructive bomb like this can destroy it. Young people need to be responsible about what they subject themselves to, even when the “17 years old” license is given to them to watch “R” movies without parental guidance.

That being said, this movie only reminded me of how the world is degrading the ideals of love that God gives us. This film seized the idea of love and shattered it to depressing nothingness. Sex is not the equivalent of love, and I’m assuming movie-makers who put trash like this into public domain live in a world of darkness. It would interest me to know exactly who is responsible for this movie, and what kind of sin he has to hide.

This movie has received far too many awards and recognition from the critics. It’s time we looked at what our society values today (because it’s not pretty).
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/1½]
—Ken, age 17
Movie Critics
…chilly, caustic, foul-mouthed anatomy of modern romance.
—David Ansen, Newsweek
…a brutally cold movie, where the characters invite our disgust and love feels like a brittle four-letter word… wears its cynicism with pride but fails to penetrate its characters’ souls to discover what motivates the abuse and conflicted emotions…
—Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter
…merely comes off as jarring, the copious chance meetings are particularly improbable… and the bitter soliloquies ring stilted in ways even the capable actors can’t overcome…
—Steve Schneider, Orlando Weekly