Director: Mike Nichols

The tagline warns that if you believe in love at first sight, you never stop looking, which although a romantic notion does have an undertone of cynicism attached. The subtle tagline is actually a major understatement to Closer's much darker themes, including romantic rivalry, lust, infidelity and the cruel head games people play in the name of love.

Adapting his own award-winning play, Patrick Marber’s brutal tale of four strangers who meet under varying circumstances with shocking results begins in a traditionally swooning cinematic fashion as Jude Law catches sight of young American beauty in London, Natalie Portman, complete with Damien Rice’s shiver-inducing, infectiously romantic ballad "The Blower’s Daughter" blasting on the soundtrack.

The two soon become involved, but this—like all of the other romantic and sexual couplings in the film-- occurs only off-screen, implied instead by the dialogue and action preceding each hook-up. The explicit dialogue is shocking enough to make Glengarry Glen Ross’s screenwriter David Mamet blush but the film is mostly all sexy talk and little visual erotic action. Soon the movie jumps forward in time to certain life and relationship altering moments as Law becomes infatuated with Julia Roberts as another American lass whose name also begins with A (possibly for "American" in Marber’s mind), despite using his girlfriend Portman as the muse for his first novel.

The actors are all quite good and Pretty Woman fans never look at America’s Sweetheart Julia Roberts in the same way again after being hit by her extensive range in her more recent films, including her work in Closer and her Oscar winning turn in Erin Brockovich.

However, the real surprises are the film’s Golden Globe winners and Oscar nominees Clive Owen and Natalie Portman. Owen turns in his most dangerous turn since Croupier as a cad who unlike Law's character isn’t in denial about his true nature. Likewise Natalie Portman devastates as the young exotic dancer who is surprisingly the most innocent of all--if only in comparison to the rest-- complete with a beguiling twist that makes us realize that we never fully understood the depths of her character in the final moments of the film.

As he did thirty plus years earlier with Carnal Knowledge, The Graduate, and Who’s Afriad of Virginia Woolf, director Mike Nichols proves an impressive and analytical aptitude for the complexities of adult human relationships. Aside from the truly blunt dialogue which may offend viewers, one other major drawback to Closer is that, in the end, it’s difficult to have empathy for such disagreeable, unlikable and selfish characters so that (aside from Portman), we find that we don’t really care what happens to them.

Note: If you've never heard it before, you're going to want to download Damien Rice's aforementioned tune below. It makes a great inclusion for a romantic mix tape as do all the other songs from the film like another personal favorite "Caramel."

Songs Featured in Closer from iTunes

“The Blower’s Daughter” by Damien Rice
Damien Rice - O - The Blower's Daughter

“Cold Water” by Damien Rice
Damien Rice - O - Cold Water

“Caramel” by Suzanne Vega
Suzanne Vega - Retrospective: The Best of Suzanne Vega - Caramel

“How Soon Is Now?” by The Smiths
The Smiths - Hatful of Hollow - How Soon Is Now?