Infidelity is one of those on-screen betrayals that doesn't feel like a big deal unless it's happened to you personally. We can all acknowledge it's wrong but at the end of the day, (and especially in fiction) does anyone really care? If characters we see in cinema are willing to put up with being wrong, shouldn't we as their audiences be able to put up with seeing them stick around for more?
Set in London, Closer introduces us to Alice Ayres, (Natalie Portman) an American who's just moved to the U.K. in need of a fresh start. She strikes up a relationship with Dan Woolf, (Jude Law) a journalist who a year after meeting her has written a book about her personal experiences. He locates photographer Anna Cameron, (Julia Roberts) to help digitally publicize him for the book's upcoming release. By this point, Dan’s become bored in his relationship with Alice. The situation is very much “I got what I needed from you, now you can leave”.
Of course, people like Dan are too cowardly to end a relationship with someone who has no flaws so he initiates an affair with Anna. Despite being turned down by her, he continues to remain infatuated with her, an infatuation that will alter the lives of himself, Anna, Alice, and Larry Gray, (Clive Owen) a doctor whom Anna marries before things get really terrible for everyone.
Dramas like Closer rely fully on the actors and all four were superb in their own ways. Portman (Who was nominated for her performance for a best-supporting actress) was the most thrilling to watch due to her mystifying guise. How many of us have looked the other way in situations, generally speaking? Despite all the negative signs flaunting in front of us, we for some unknown reason, find it easier to look the other way. People often do this in film and audiences judge them for it (Partly because they're judging themselves). Portman does this and all you'll feel for her is a raw empathy that's not pity nor pressured. Portman is 24 in the film and as shameful it is to admit, you do stupid things when you're young. You just do. It's human nature and these stupid things are often impulsive and leave you vulnerable to emotional prey and feeling hurt beyond repair.
There's a scene in the middle of the film where Alice and Larry (After being disposed of like garbage by Dan and Anna) meet by chance at Alice’s place of work. Alice’s denial of having met him, yet hints of events from the past make for the film's best and most complex scene. Over the course of several minutes, you learn more about the two of them than you ever did before they were sent to pastures. That's the real tragedy of Closer: The affliction of truly believing that you need people when they are the ones that really need you because no one else will put up their selfishness.
Anna doesn't want to be a monster. There are a few moments when she appears to feel remorse for her actions but none of them stop her from making future mistakes. Dan is completely heartless. He doesn't care who he hurts as long as he gets what he wants. He thinks he loves Anna but he doesn't. He only loves the idea of love. Anna insists that love bores him at one point. He bluntly responds that it only disappoints him.
The dissatisfaction of having everything going for you but still wanting more is the insidious blood that flows through Closer’s veins and it bleeds so cinematically miraculous. Closer is more than a film, it's a parable. Parables never lose their timelessness and Closer still stays current to me, nine years after first seeing it.