A beautiful looking film that echoes one of its characters comments on art and beauty making life a lie. This film looks great but with all of its lying, cheating and the like it becomes hard to appreciate fully.
Based on a play by Patrick Marber and written by the playwright himself this movie sees the ways in love hits four people. It begins with Dan (Jude Law) falling for a gorgeous lady he sees one day on the way to work. He helps her and soon they end up together. She is Alice (Natalie Portman), an American and a flirty type who somehow doesn’t do enough for Dan as he winds up getting attracted to a photographer called Anna (Julia Roberts). The last character to be introduced via an internet prank is a dermatologist named Larry (Clive Owen) who meets Anna and they end up dating. The story follows the four as their paths meet and their promiscuous criss crossing pushes the drama forward.
Mike Nichols, the director does manage to convey the glorious nature needed for this sultry tale. What with all its beauty in language and love there needs to be that artistic image possessing the movie throughout and he captures that ingredient well. Each London location whether it’s a posh restaurant or a standard city park comes across in way as if an artist had eyed the shot themselves. The only issue, as always comes with the idea of style over substance where sometimes this story feels overly dramatic at moments. Nichols keeps up a steady pace to the movie though and with clever editing links to photography thanks John Bloom & Antonia Van Drimmelen you get a sense of more artistic symmetry. The white flashes resembling the slow burn out of a camera going off happen now and then to signal time passing and that works to good effect in letting the audience know that.
I believe honestly the main problem this film has, like I thought in some terms with the film ‘Doubt’, is that its play origins make it feel more suitable for that tense stage environment. It has some extraordinary actors helping this movie along and there are some fabulous scenes but at numerous points the sexually devious behaviours of the four feel overly pushed. It therefore presents this plot as something more akin to a soap opera with characters coming forward for that cliffhanger moment to reveal their cheating habits before the next episode same time tomorrow. After a while it’s a little ridiculous as these main four struggle through life connected to each other through passion and lies.
I do like the language of the movie a lot though and that must obviously stem from the story’s play written background. All of the characters speak efficiently and eloquently and there’s beauty in what they say even if the subject of what they say is vulgar. If that somehow makes sense!? I found myself sort of transfixed from time to time listening to the dialogue of this movie and with amazing famous lines like the one delivered by Natalie Portman how could you not be. “Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking her clothes off…but it’s better if you do.” There’s a truly sexy yet worrying air to that comment and in general the language of the film holds that double quality. It’s just nice to have a film that revels in focusing on the excellence and poetry of language.
The actors are pretty outstanding and with only four it gives you time to digest their stories more. In terms of acting and attention though the show is well and truly stolen by Portman and Owen as the more battlescarred emotional pair in the movie. Natalie Portman can play that stunning sexy vulnerable character in her sleep it seems and you feel for her the most as she tries attaining a life of love with someone who doesn’t love her back. The most interesting thing about this movie in general is concerning her character and the unpredictability surrounding her life. The end reveal was utterly unexpected from myself and made some of the more slow and melodramatic times in the movie seem less so. Clive Owen carries that dominant powerful demeanour but he too has such broken vulnerability when held in the hands of the higher power of love and he conveys that emotion to great effect. The best scene in the movie is the one shared by Portman and Owen in the strip club private room and the changes of language, power and emotion feel like a mini roller coaster ride.
A bold erotic sensual story that is good thanks to its cast and the beauty emanating from the look of the film. There’s only the weaker elements of despicable characters and stagey melodrama that feels like too much of a downer at times.