Middlebrow and I watched "Closer" last night. A friend mentioned that I should see it so that we could discuss it. Let me preface my remarks by saying that I love Clive Owen pretty much unconditionally. That said, let me proceed with my critique:
Yes, the film is stagey. It was adapted from a play and the film pretty much shows that. I don't mind the stiff, dramatic dialogue. In fact, I thought much of the dialogue was sharp and witty.
My problem is that I'm not sure where the moral/ethical center of the film is. In the end, as I told Middlebrow last night, the social contract triumphs over either love or justice. Now, by ethical or moral I don't necessarily mean a religious sense of morals or ethics. What I mean is that I want there to be some statement of some kind about the decisions made by the characters. Maybe they are "bad" in some kind of cultural sense, but that the author is commenting on the decisions or the character of the characters in some way. But in the end, I felt like the manipulative people triumphed and the characters who felt genuine emotions were still sad and depressed. Yes, I know, life is like this. But do I really need a play or movie to tell me this? I know life is hard and love can often time cause more pain than anything else. And sure, the dialogue was good and Clive Owen torched the screen every time he showed up. And Natalie Portman is ridiculously attractive. So what? This was my feeling at the end of the movie. People who feel suffer, and people who are good at manipulating other people continue to be good at manipulating other people. They have nice offices and make a lot of money and marry the pretty women (no pun intended). The other people suffer and continue to suffer. Lie, the movie seems to say, because then you won't feel bad and neither will anyone else.
What, I ask you, IS the moral center of this movie? I am asking my students to write manifestos of what art is for. I think it's time I write one. I used to think art should be unsettling, and I still think this. But it can't be merely unsettling. It has to be unsettling with a point. That's all for now. I anxiously await your comments.