The Film Foursome of Larry & Anna & Dan & Alice…
These four talking love, relationships, sex and betrayal.
CLOSER (2004) – Official Movie Trailer, soundfan and photos © Columbia Pictures
The haunting romantic lyrics of Damien Rice’s The Blower’s Daughter brings us to the Closer (2004) movie. Dan Woolf (Jude Law), a writer with a roving eye spots a pretty girl in the crowd. He’s attracted to her striking haircut and dress in his daily world of grey trench coats. Their faces meet as they are walking towards each other in London rush hour.
She’s vibrant colours in this bland and colourless sea. He smiles. She smiles. There’s an obvious attraction. Then crossing the road, she is hit by a car and literally and metaphorically falls at his feet… To Dan and Alice, we add Anna and Larry to this film equation. These are the only four characters in this movie.
We explore the chemistry and interactions between them. We discover there’s so much more to love and thus making it a much more interesting film. Making it more real and credible. These four individuals intertwined stories relying on powerful performances, empathetic situations, familiar characteristics and stirring dialogue (often of a sexual kind).
This film is a striking – and dare I say refreshing – change to those fluffy, predictable movie romances. Love stories in which we’ve seen these cast members before. The quartet of leading names reads Jude Law, Clive Owen, Julia Roberts and Natalie Portman. All showing more depth to their acting in these much more complex characters. This is in anything I’ve seen them in to date in their raw, strong and credible performances.
After this girl falls at Dan’s feet, she opens her eyes and says “Hello stranger” and smiles. He takes her to the hospital. There they talk more, immediately falling into fun, humorous and easy banter and rapport. After some time she’s discharged with a grazed knee. She leaves his side as they leave the hospital.
He catches up with her and gives her an impromptu fun tour of London with full-on innuendo from him. After passing more memorable sights from the capital, the pair enter Postman’s Park, a hospital memorial garden.
They talk more about his work and their relationships and we learn Dan has a girlfriend. Alice is an American stripper who recently left her boyfriend, as she didn’t love him. She emphasises she’s the one to leave a relationship. She introduces herself as Alice Ayres (Natalie Portman).
A year later, Dan’s being photographed by Anna (Julia Roberts). He’s written a book partly based on Alice’s story – and dedicated it to her – and they are now living together. Yet he appears extremely flirty with Anna.
However, Anna seems more distant and professional. They talk about his book and its sexual content (which she liked) and her love of aquariums. He kisses her and after a while, she responds. He then tells her of his relationship with Alice, how Alice is lovable and that he won’t leave her.
Shortly after this Alice appears to meet him. After she pops to the toilet, Anna turns down Dan’s offer of a fling. He’s hurt. Alice returns and asks Anna to photograph her. Alone together, after Dan leaves, Alice poses for the photograph crying. Alice reveals she overheard their conversation. Anna assures her she won’t steal him away from her.
Another year later, Dan on an internet sex chat site “talks” with Larry (Clive Owen) – a doctor – with Dan pretending to be Anna as he writes. Using information learned from Dan’s conversation with her, it’s unclear about his motives. Devious, coincidence or playing a game it’s hard to say.
However, as both the men talk sex quite graphically, you get the impression “Anna” is turning on Larry sexually. There is more bemusement as Dan takes part in their chat. Meanwhile, Larry locks the doors of the doctor’s office and zips down his trousers. As “Anna” arranges to meet him at the aquarium.
By chance, when Larry arrives for his “date” he meets the real Anna. Anna is shocked by his blatant sexual chat, he’s puzzled by her not responding to him as “she” did before. She feels Dan’s behind “her” part in the conversation. This meeting leading to Larry and Anna spending more time together that day, and then they start a relationship.
The two couples connect with each other at Anna’s photographic exhibition four months later. Dan’s due to leave for his father’s funeral straight after. Larry chats with Alice, and they talk about the sadness of her photograph, Dan’s book and he tells of his relationship with Anna.
There is a brief moment of attraction for him as he talks of her being a stripper, but this is not acted on. After Alice leaves, it’s revealed that Dan stalked Anna for a year. He is aware and upset about her relationship with Larry. Dan tries for a relationship with Anna once more.
Further on in time, Dan returns home late and tells Alice he’s not been with his friends as she thought. He’s been with Anna and has been seeing her since her exhibition. Larry returning from a work trip confesses to Anna he slept with a prostitute. Anna telling him guiltily about her relationship with Dan.
Both partners are hurt by their lover’s admissions of love for another and both couples splitting over this year-long betrayal. The effects of infidelity are seen, as these four characters react with each other in a variety of complex interactions for better or worse.
This film was interestingly titled Closer, which you would hope would apply to the films original couple’s relationships. This is as we meet them at the start of their relationships and in time with Anna marrying Larry and Dan and Alice moving in together. It was interesting exploring these four characters in their interactions and their personalities in their shared scenes.
Yet ironically, the four characters were not close to their partners, but closer to others with Alice and Dan opening up to Larry and Anna respectively. Dan appeared a man who seemed to fall in love at first sight and enjoy the flirtation following this. This appeared in both of his relationships with Alice and Anna.
Dan seemed less interested in Alice once he met Anna. He pursued Anna albeit unsuccessfully for a year as her stalker. Interestingly his flirtatious behaviour was also seen, as he masqueraded as Anna when “she” met Larry on the internet.
I felt empathy for Alice, despite the fact that she was not able to fully trust Dan from the start. This is increasingly apparent in her fears and belief that Dan would leave her. He saw her as needy, rather than a genuine fear due to her knowledge of that pass he made to Alice. Alice appeared to care for Dan and to love him and was hurt by his betrayal. On discovering this, she ensured she was the one who left their relationship when it ended.
Shockingly, when Dan met Anna – and indeed where Alice met Larry – both revealed more of their lives in their conversations. Both saying things, that should have been said to their then partners. Dan tells Anna hypocritically that Alice is lovable and he won’t leave her, then making a pass at Alice.
These are exactly the words Alice longs to hear, with a scene echoing her hopes of this before he and Alice attend Anna’s exhibition. Which he doesn’t react to and this conversation just hours before his affair begins with Anna. On attending the exhibition with Alice meeting Larry, an instant and true connection is made between them as they look at her picture with her saying that his book did not contain the truth about her.
Anna appeared cold and distant. Yet, full of contradictions, with her character initially not taking up Dan’s offer of a fling. Yet it’s clear with time that she changed her mind when the details of their affair revealed. And this after her assuring Alice that she would not steal him from her.
Larry appeared to be faultless in this love square, and not under a pretence like the others. But more interested in sex than love. He was interested in sex be it with a prostitute or a woman in a sex chat room. This changed on meeting Anna who he seemed genuinely in love with from the start.
As a film, I enjoyed this more brutally real examination of relationships. The effects of an affair by the lovers Anna and Dan, and those that they left. However, I felt the time jumps should have been reinforced differently in this film. These appeared only by noting in Portman’s hairstyle changes and in references to time passing in the characters conversations.
Time passing scenes could easily have been added in a montage. Including more significant off-screen events such as Larry and Anna’s marriage and relationship, Alice’s relationship with Dan and Anna’s on-off fling with Dan. It seemed like a big significant chunk of these relationships were not seen, somewhere between initial dating to their breaking point and break up. These scenes would also give more insight into the characters.
I found the lovers’ confessions scenes shocking as a result of this. And both Dan and Anna are hypocritical and unsympathetic in scenes following this. Immediately I felt empathy and understanding for Larry and Alice’s reactions to and feelings towards their errant lovers.
But most of all I found Dan the most despicable following his initial pass with Anna and pursuing her despite her relationship and marriage to Larry while maintaining his relationship with Alice. He really was a (Daniel) Woolf in sheep’s clothing.
This film was described perfectly – with these four characters not truly understanding their partners – by Alice but in reference to Anna’s exhibition; “It’s a bunch of sad strangers photographed (filmed) beautifully”.
Weeper Rating: 😦 😦 😦 😦 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 10
Hulk Rating: /10
Favourite Foursome Blogathon 2018, No 32 and the Always a Bridesmaid Blogathon 2019 No 52
This film review was added to Movie Movie Blog Blog‘s Favourite Foursome Blogathon. It was also added to Hollywood Genes’ Always A Bridesmaid Film Blogathon. Other posts on films with this cast include Jude Law in AI Artificial Intelligence and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Julia Roberts in Mother’s Day, Conspiracy Theory, My Best Friends Wedding, Runaway Bride and Pretty Woman reviews. Natalie Portman stars in Thor, Black Swan, Mars Attacks and Your Highness reviews.