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REVIEW: Closer

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Boy walks down the street. Girl walks toward him from the other direction. Their eyes meet, they stop on opposite sides of an intersection… and wham, she’s hit by a cab. And so it goes in Closer, Mike Nichols’ adaptation of Patrick Marber’s play about strangers who literally meet by accident, then do horrible things to each other on purpose.

    Closer‘s four characters are interconnected via Dan, an obituary writer played by the ubiquitous Jude Law. Dan is dating waitress/stripper Alice (Natalie Portman) but falls for photographer Anna (Julia Roberts). Anna is married to Larry (Clive Owen), whom Dan inadvertently set her up with in a dirty chat-session prank. The foursome come together, split and pair off again in different combinations. We’re in England, but it all seems so very French.

    All four have familiar flaws: Dan is a self-absorbed, failed writer who has taken Alice’s life story as the basis of his novel; darkly brooding Dr. Larry verges on malevolence; Anna’s a prize flake who bounces back and forth between the two men. As for daffy little Alice — well, she’s got more going on than you’d think. Bruised and abandoned by Dan in one scene, she’s a sasspot stripper teasing and tormenting Larry in another. (Although, a warning for flesh fans: Portman requested the nudity be removed from the film.)

    Casting movie stars of this caliber often makes it difficult to separate their real-life personae from those on-screen (this means you, Julia), but director Mike Nichols gets the best out of each, just as the film itself focuses on the juciest bits of each relationship: the flush of the first meeting, the disastrous end. Time skips forward in months and years, avoiding the draggy middle stuff no one remembers anyway.

    In one scene, Larry learns that his new bride Anna has been having an affair with Dan for the past year. He masochistically goads Anna into comparing her two men. Anyone who’s been cuckolded will recognize this conversation. In the end, Closer isn’t really about which girl ends up with which boy, but a hard look at how much of ourselves we’re willing to reveal to strangers. — Lily Oei

REVIEW:
I Am David
Few tortures compare with the agony of sitting through the
ninety-something minutes of I Am David. This new film from
writer/director Paul Feig (who, amazingly, created the all-time-great TV show Freaks and Geeks) tells the story of a young boy who has spent his entire life in a Bulgarian labor
camp. Through completely improbable circumstances, David escapes in 1952,
bound for Denmark with a mysterious envelope. He then meets all
sorts of new friends who expound at endless length about love and
trust and other heartwarming drivel. But poor David doesn’t know
anything about joy. His life has been nothing but misery and the
movie never lets us forget it. In one scene, we discover that David
has never learned to smile. In another, a woman who paints his
portrait complains, “I’m having trouble with your eyes, I’ve never
had to use so much black before.” Subtlety is not this
film’s strong point. It’s a tearjerker that jerks its dry-eyed audience around contemptuously. — Nic
Sheff
Date DVD #10: How to Steal a Million
Sam Raimi’s terrific Spider-Man 2 is
the obvious Date DVD this week, but judging from the box-office
tallies, you’ve already seen Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson
coo and kiss.

    So go way back to the lovely 1968 romance How to Steal
a Million
,
one of the great William Wyler’s final films. Audrey Hepburn plays
the daughter of a Parisian art forger, and Peter O’Toole plays the
mysterious man who might be able to save her father from prison.
The plot’s convoluted, but the chemistry’s undeniable from the first
encounter between Hepburn and O’Toole, which is utterly ridiculous
and absolutely endearing.

   

Hearing a bump in the night, Hepburn tosses on a couture dressing gown
and sneaks, lightfooted, down the stairs. Standing on the staircase, she
spies his shadow — suspecting he’s a thief — and pries a cartoonish antique
pistol from the wall. She takes a few steps down, points the gun, and
sees, in her living room, Peter O’Toole, more dashing than 007, in a drop-dead-gorgeous
tuxedo. Hepburn is instantly smitten, as anyone would be. So she shoots
him (“It’s only a flesh wound,” she says). Soon, she’s
yanking on a big pair of heavy black boots under her dressing gown, and
headed out the door in a lovestruck daze, escorting
the handsome stranger back to his hotel.

   

The decades have cast a kind of cutesy patina over Hepburn, but I
love her for moments like these — in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Love
in the Afternoon, Charade,
and so many others — when her
character seems like the most innocent and openhearted gal you’ve
ever
seen, and then, slyly, goes looking for trouble. — Logan
Hill



 
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