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PCR # 245  (Vol. 5, No. 49)  This edition is for the week of November 29--December 5, 2004.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith
Three and a half stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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 by Will Moriaty
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 by Mike Smith
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Columbia Pictures     
Starring: Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen
Directed by: Mike Nichols
Rated: R
Running Time: 1 hour 51 mins

What hasn't been said about Mike Nichols? For his first film, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, "he directed Elizabeth Taylor to her second Oscar and Richard Burton to, in my opinion, his greatest film performance. His second film, "The Graduate," earned him the Academy Award for Best Director and made Dustin Hoffman a star. "Catch 22," "Carnal Knowledge," "Silkwood," "The Birdcage," "Primary Colors" and this past years HBO triumph, "Angels in America." He has long been regarded as the actor's director, having begun his career as a performer. And with his latest film, "Closer," his reputation is confirmed as he gets incredible performances out of his leads.

"Closer" tells the story of four very different people with many things in common. Throughout the four year time period the film encompasses, these four hearts, for lack of a better term, meet, fall in love, fall out of love and reconcile, only to start the cycle all over again. The story begins in London, where Dan (Law) and Alice (Portman) make eye contact as they walk towards each other down a busy street. Being an American, Alice looks the wrong way and steps in front of a slow moving taxi. She isn't hurt too badly and soon she and Dan realize there is an attraction. Moving ahead, we find Dan being photographed for a book he's written by the very beautiful Anna (Roberts). After some witty banter, he and Anna also find an attraction. Later, in a coincidental meeting, Anna will run into Larry (Owen) and the game will begin again. It's the old tale of love at first sight, only that love is tested. Often.

At year's end, Law will have appeared in six films this year. A talented actor, he saved his best performance for "Closer." Not one to play up his good looks (remember his balding, dentally challenged hit man in "Road to Perdition?"), Law willingly exposes his heart and soul to the audience, and for that he is to be commended. Roberts character is miles apart from her normal big hair, big smile persona that made her a star. She has slowly evolved from "movie star" to actress, and her work here is another step in the right direction. But the revelations here are Portman and Owen. Portman gives a beautifully vulnerable performance, all big eyes and wonderment when she's happy, suspiciously jealous and moody when she's not. Owen pretty much explodes onto the screen in what is sure to be remembered as his star making role. With a quick wit, and even quicker temper, he makes himself the center of every scene he's in. I have read that Owen is a possible contender to replace Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, and from his work here I would have no objections. I would be very surprised if both he and Portman didn't receive Oscar nominations for their work.

If I have one complaint about the film, it would be the pacing. The film is based on Patrick Marber's 1997 award winning play of the same name and Marber's screenplay comes across almost like a filmed theater production. The dialogue is delivered in bursts, with pauses added for extra effect. I can see how this would have been successful on the stage, but on screen it sometimes gets annoying. However, even this is a mild negative in a highly positive experience. A welcome addition to the holiday film season and a great beginning to what looks to be a very pleasant "prestige" picture month.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give "Closer"  Three and a half stars

This week's movie review of "Closer" is ©2004 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2004, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.