closer (+++). goodness, what a vicious little film. recall the worst instants of your worst breakups, throw in the questions you were too squeamish to ask, add the revelations you were too kind to share, repeat a dozen times, and you've got closer. though the cast is Big Hollywood (Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Clive Owen [yes, he counts too]), the structure screams art house; to critics' dismay, patrick marber's adapted screenplay is heavy on events the audience never sees and telescopes anguish without development or resolution. given how vividly he and mike nichols present the flare-ups we do see, i don't really mind. i think the blue language (not so terrible, really, but there's quite a lot of it) is justified as well: sure, you don't want to bring clive owen's larry (or any of these characters) home to mom, but his dirtiest tirade comes right after he learns he was cuckolded on his very own sofa. a few hours ago. oh yeah, and it's been happening for a year. closer's only t&a - natalie portman's much-anticipated turn as a pole- and lap dancer - is one of the film's cleverest and least titillating scenes: larry and most of the western world have been led to believe that natalie (remember the countdown to her eighteenth birthday?) should be nekkid, and she gets there with such chilly poise that we feel like covering up. the last scene's 'revelation' recalls that feeling nicely: lovers are intimate strangers, and no kink or sentiment can change that. wow and ouch.

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