What do you get with a movie about two couples who cheat on one another within the love square and then, after a lot of trading barbs and some shilly-shallying, revert to their original twosomes? Going by the very polarising reviews of Closer, a melodrama you either love or hate.
But even if you walk away from it with loathing—it seems a fair number of people can’t stand the selfish and/or vindictive characters, however true to life; or are just viscerally incensed by anything that touches on infidelity, however fictional—Closer should be recognised for having its characters spit some hauntingly brutal lines.
If you've never watched it, the 2004 movie stars Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Clive Owen and Julia Roberts. Yes, it's somewhat old, but the dynamics between the lovers of each duo, and among all four individuals as a group, are no less irrelevant. As it is, human relationships are as complex today as when it was still socially acceptable for a man to have several wives.
Very messy liaisons
To sum up the plot, Girl A and Guy A meet through a chance encounter and become Couple A. One year later, Guy A meets Girl B and, intrigued by her, proposes an affair. She rejects him, and feeling slighted, he plays a prank on her. Girl B meets Guy B in the process of getting spoofed and they become Couple B.
You already know what turn this narrative takes, so Guy A and Girl B eventually have the affair even when Girl B and Guy B marry at some point. They go on to confess their indiscretions to their respective partners and then leave their relationships for each other. But as movies go—though, if we're honest, it is art that imitates life—Girl A and Guy B end up having their own little encounter.
Nothing wrong with that since they were both jilted, right? Except Girl B goes back for a romp with Guy B. You'll have to watch to find out why, but anyhow, Couple B get back together, as does Couple A. Until stuff happens. And stuff always does.
Make of the storyline what you will, but this isn't about the quartet’s motivations as it is the vicious things they utter as things fall apart. The quick-witted characters are explicit when antagonised, and they’re not just brutal, but brutally honest.
Girl A and Guy A
Girl A: Is it because she's successful?
Guy A: No. It's because she doesn't need me.
Girl A: Love bores you.
Guy A: No. It disappoints me.
Guy A: Why did you f*ck him?
Girl A: I wanted to.
Guy A: Why him?
Girl A: He asked me nicely.
Girl B and Guy B
Guy B: You like him coming in your face? What does it taste like?
Girl B: It tastes like you. But sweeter.
Guy B: Is he good?
Girl B: Yes.
Guy B: Better than me?
Girl B: Different.
Guy B: Better?
Girl B: Gentler.
Guy B: You've ruined my life.
Girl B: You'll get over it.
Guy A and Guy B
Guy A: I owe you an apology. I fell in love with her. My intention was not to make you suffer.
Guy B: So where's the apology? You c*nt.
Guy A: You love her like a dog loves its owner.
Guy B: And the owner loves the dog for so doing.
Girl A and Guy B
Guy B: [The book] is about you isn't it?
Girl A: Some of me.
Guy B: What did he leave out?
Girl A: The truth.
Girl A: I'm not a whore.
Guy B: I wouldn't pay.
Words that draw blood
The first time I watched Closer, I found myself haunted by the rough and raw nature of the dialogues, and every rewatch still leaves me a little gloomier. It's hard to feel otherwise when the caustic conversations repeatedly summon the slap in the face one is sometimes served when rowing with a loved one behind closed doors.
The allure of the movie lies not in the betrayals or racour, but the language the characters employ when feuding. Guy A explaining why he fell in love with Girl B? Essentially, I love her because she's not you. Girl B addressing sex with Guy A? Essentially, I love it because he doesn't touch me the way you do. These are things that cannot be disputed because they are what people feel.
And albeit crude, the statements are realistic: Even if you haven't quite dared say them to someone, if you've ever found yourself entangled in any sort of romantic web gone real wrong, you surely have conjured them in your head. Closer not only reminds us that romance can be very unromantic, but brings us up-close to a lens that allows us to examine ourselves and our humanness. That makes it worth having it stuck in your head, too.