(R) 1 1/2 stars

(R) 1 1/2 stars
Closer opens with the plaintive voice of Damien Rice performing a tune called "The Blower's Daughter" in which he sings the sentence, "I can't take my eyes off you," again and again. And again and again. And again, until I reached the point where all I desired was to seek him out, like Bluto in Animal House, and smash his precious acoustic guitar into kindling before slapping duct tape over his oh-so-sensitive mouth. "Nothing," I thought, "could be more annoying than the repetition of that miserable sentence."
Natalie Portman in 'Closer'
And then I saw the film that followed it. Closer is Mike Nichols' (Angels in America, Carnal Knowledge, The Graduate) adaptation of Patrick Marber's play, which premiered in London in 1997 and has been staged in more than 100 cities around the world. Obviously, there is something in the work that connects with audiences. Let me know what it is, would you, because damned if I see anything beyond 100 mostly-excruciating minutes of four people posturing and yapping at each other. It reminded me of the works of Neil LaBute (In the Company of Men, Your Friends and Neighbors), specifically his film The Shape of Things, only more abrasive and less insightful. The London-based cast is certainly attractive. Jude Law, in his fourth or fifth movie this year, plays Dan, a would-be novelist who writes obits for a newspaper. Julia Roberts is Anna, a portrait photographer. Natalie Portman is ex-NYC stripper Alice, and Clive Owen is Larry, a lug of a dermatologist (you wouldn't think "lug" and "dermatologist" could go together, but Owen makes it happen). For the length of the movie, the foursome falls in and out of love in various combinations, squabbling endlessly. Their conversations are often sexually explicit, so you know they're real, man! In fact, not for a moment does anyone come off as an actual human being. Neither do any of them sound like one - everybody just talks like a character in a play. While I found their hateful bickering torturous, I will grudgingly admit that the script contains a few quotable passages. When Dan speaks about the heart in romantic terms, Larry the dermatologist bitterly says, "Have you ever seen a human heart? It's shaped like a fist wrapped in blood." Great line. Bad movie.

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