Closer

Clive Owen, Natalie Portman, Julia Roberts, and Jude Law in Closer
Watching the movie Closer tonight seemed to tie together a lot of thoughts I’ve been having about various things lately. Allow me to elaborate (in a bit).

First, I’ll say that I loved the movie. I wasn’t sure whether I would, given that the movie had some non-hype hype… that is, although I guess it wasn’t a huge mainstream success, it seemed to do pretty well in the theatres (i.e. it wasn’t a total indie art film). Though, after seeing that this is the director that did Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (which, yes, I really love), now I understand why the movie was so good.

As for the acting, after seeing Revenge of the Sith the other day, it was nice to be reminded that Natalie Portman (Alice) can act (which, I know, is probably the #1 cliché written by critics reviewing both Closer and Garden State, but whatever) and I forgot how much I love Julia Roberts’ (Anna) voice. Oh, and I loved Natalie Portman’s hair and how it changed so often.

I can’t/won’t say much about Clive Owen (Larry) and Jude Law (Dan). I guess their performances were okay (though Clive Owen was nominated for his role, so others must have been impressed). I didn’t like their characters at all, and I thought it was bizarre that both of the male characters were British, but oh well.

In regard to the two themes that this movie touched on that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately:

Love as a Coincidence/Temporal Anomaly

I think 2046 really got me started on this whole thought process, but Closer really reassured me that maybe all love is is timing. All of the times that the four characters meet one-on-one are all a matter of chance — Dan seeing Alice get hit by a car, Dan meeting Anna at a photo shoot, Dan tricking Larry into meeting Anna, and Larry finding Alice at a strip club. Nobody had a lot in common with each other. Love was just something that happened to them.

When Dan in Closer and Chow in 2046 try to “outsmart” love, or don’t really accept the reality of it, they end up getting burned. Dan is a hypocrite in Closer for cheating on Alice with Anna and then getting angry at Anna for sleeping with Larry again. Then after ruining his relationship with Alice only to ruin the subsequence relationship with Anna, he assumes that Alice will always love him and that he can return to her. In the end, however, he’s left alone and rather pathetic. I wouldn’t say that Chow is necessarily pathetic, but the fact he never gets over Su Lizhen from In the Mood for Love and doesn’t realize the temporality of the relationship leaves him, in the end, alone.

Jude Law as Dan and Natalie Portman as Alice

Wanting All the Details After Being Cheated On

When I re-watched Short Cuts the other week, the scene in which Julianne Moore’s character’s (Marian) husband Ralph questions her about a time years ago when she got with some artist named Mitchell Andrews reminded me of something that has bothered me about men for a long time: whenever they are cheated on, they want all the details, as explicitly as possible along with a comparison of “was he better than me?”

After seeing Short Cuts, I actually started a post and saved it in draft so I could work on a larger post about this idea, but Closer totally broke it into the open.

When Anna first cheats on Larry, he wants all the details (“Did he make you cum?”, “How many times?”, “Was he better than me?”, etc.) when she decides to tell him that her and Dan had been seeing each other for a year. Likewise, when, at the end, Alice tells Dan that she slept with Larry, Dan demands details about their encounter.

In both movies, the men seem to want to know everything. Also, in both movies, the women don’t want to reveal what happened. They believe that either the details don’t matter or don’t want the men they are with to know in the first place. But, as seen in Closer via the actions of Larry and Dan, when they don’t know the details it drives them nuts, and then when they do get the details, it drives them more nuts.

I know there are tons more movies where this happens (sorta in Lost Highway when Peter demands that Alice tells him about how she met Mr. Eddy), and I am also sure there are cases where the women want to know everything from their men. If anyone has more examples, that would be awesome.

From a critical theory standpoint, I would situate this phenomenon into my one of my favorite topics: the presence of an absence. The absence, in this case, is the knowledge about the hookup. The men know that it exists, but they don’t know anything about it. Instead of being filled with concrete details, the absence remains an empty shell into which they can project whatever they want. And the fact that it remains in such a state, means that they can project the most extraordinary and bizarre details into the situation. I’m sure that the men, castrated by the presence of the unknown, imagine the sex to be mind-blowingly good. Even when they women assure them that they regret the hookup or that it was only sex, the men are not satisfied. They hope that, somehow, by gaining knowledge, they will be able to face the unknown and turn the absence into something they can understand and reject and be angry about.

From a non-critical common-sense standpoint, I would situate this phenomenon into one of my least-favorite topics: competition/jealousy. I’m sure this is a more easily understandable concept, so if my presence of an absence description is whack, just realize it’s a fancy way of saying jealousy.

Overall, Closer was a great movie. I’m not sure about all these reviews commenting on it’s explicit and “brutally honest” portrayal of sex (compared to other films I’ve watched, it was tame), but whatever. The acting was great, the directing (I imagine) was also superb, and the writing was “write”-on. I would love to see the stage version of Closer if ever given the chance. I also love that the film helped me go deeper into some things I’ve been thinking a lot about lately — it got me closer to coming up with some more solid conclusions and more thought-out studies.

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