Pin It
Favorite

Love Bites 

Love: the foremost four-letter word. Or at least it is in Mike Nichols' glossy yet stormy adaptation of Patrick Marber's 1997 world-weary hit play, Closer, which collates the most intense moments in the romantic lives of a quartet of modern-day men and women who meet, part, obsess, fixate, avenge and take revenge.

The story covers the most emotional moments of meeting and parting in the lives of four Londoners: self-pitying obits writer Jude Law, photographer Julia Roberts, brash dermatologist Clive Owen and still-formative life force Natalie Portman. The dialogue is blunt and the emotions even more so, capturing all the things you've thought and felt but never put into precise and profane language at the moment you're most wounded: That's the black heart of the scarring, scarily funny events these actors enact with eager intimacy.

Nichols, 73 -- who's been here before with movies like Carnal Knowledge (1970) and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) -- has said he believes civilization begins and ends at a man and woman's breakfast table.

"Anything worth fighting for is worth fighting dirty for" is one of the many epigrams he repeats about the stories he's attracted to. And why do actors trust him? "I love to take them to a place where they open a vein. That's the job. The key is that I make it safe for them to open the vein."

And why do writers like Tony Kushner (Angels in America) and Marber, 40, trust Nichols? Marber, who wrote and directed the original London stage production, wanted to direct the movie because he was unwilling to let his play fall into Hollywood's studio development hell. So why Nichols? "Well, he made Carnal Knowledge and made Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf."

And? "And he's just very charming and hilarious and smart. At the first meeting we had, at his apartment, we had breakfast together, and he was just someone I knew would be fantastic to spend a couple of years with working on something. He had a passion for the material. He didn't talk about it in some high-falutin', intellectual way. He just said, 'I know who these people are, I've lived it, I've been there.' He had no moral problems with it. He had no worries about likeability or all the things that are problematic in the material. He just cared for it instantly and passionately."

And he simply wanted to be involved in its filming. "He was quite happy to produce it if I wanted to direct," Marber continues. "But obviously, I was sitting in a room with Mike Nichols. I'm not gonna say, 'Yeah, I want to direct it and you can produce.' I wanted him, the full experience. I also knew he came from the theater, he was respectful of the material, he wanted me around. That was part of his -- how to put it? -- not his pitch ... part of his conversation was, 'Look, the way I work, I have the writer in the rehearsal room, I have the writer on set. We work on the screenplay together.' He was absolutely true to his word. We're still collaborating as we do screening [introductions] and Q and As. We're a double act!"

In fact, Marber and Nichols both come from comedy backgrounds. "Mike and I were doing a Q and A last night and a question was asked about that. I said that the difference between Mike and me is that Mike, in his twenties, was rich, famous and successful, and I was poor, desperate and unknown. Other than that? We had exactly the same background."

In spite of a few choice lines and a lot of sexual tension, Closer exhibits a good deal of reserve. "It's very important to me that there's no nudity in the play. It's all about words, and the words we use. I wanted the audience to always feel like they'd seen all this sex, but they hadn't seen a damn thing."

But around the world, a percentage of critics invariably see Closer as something misanthropic and cynical. "I'm really used to that as a criticism of the material," Marber says, shrugging. "People who didn't go with the play would say it's cynical and misanthropic. Mike has inherited that criticism. Of course, I don't think I'm misanthropic, I don't think I'm cynical, I don't think the material is. I think it's true, I think it's dark, I think it's how it is. Some people aren't going to like that, and they're just going to say, 'That's not how it is at all.' I see films that are very well reviewed, they're underscored with violins, they're directing you how to feel, and Mike Nichols doesn't do any of that shit. And I love him for that. He just presents it and just goes, 'How do you feel about this?'

"I love the integrity and the courage of that," Marber continues. "I think it's about love and I think it's about how people behave in the grip of terrible passion."

  • Pin It

Latest in Film

  • Short Takes
  • Short Takes

    Masterful storytelling happens in a hurry for the Oscar-nominated short films
    • Jan 28, 2015
  • Tough Issues
  • Tough Issues

    Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer provide a thoughtful meditation on race in Black or White
    • Jan 28, 2015
  • Keep it Like a Secret
  • Keep it Like a Secret

    Little Accidents is an emotionally devastating look at how we handle death
    • Jan 21, 2015
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri
So Pitted, Loomer, 66Beat, Phlegm Fatale

So Pitted, Loomer, 66Beat, Phlegm Fatale @ Jones Radiator

Sat., Jan. 31, 9 p.m.-12:30 a.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

or

More by Ray Pride

  • Cuts Like a Knife

    There's a question that must be asked about the third part of every trilogy: Is it necessary to see the first two films in order to enjoy the third one? In the case of Blade: Trinity, all you need to know about the previous episodes is that
    • Dec 10, 2004
  • Sick Individuals

    I wanted to vomit. It's a learned reflex in this profession, looking away from the screen, but the premise of first-time director James Wan's Saw, a puzzle-game serial killer thriller -- described in the Sundance 2004 catalog as "indelible hor
    • Oct 28, 2004
  • Puppet Masters

    Wooden puppets save the world. How's that different from any Jerry Bruckheimer movie, you ask? It's very different -- and almost the same -- in Team America: World Police, Trey Parker and Matt Stone's brilliantly mindless, wickedly profane, rel
    • Oct 14, 2004
  • More »

Top Tags in
Music & Film

Film


Review


Music


Tribute


© 2015 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation