Movies I Still Think About: Closer (2004)

So I have a passion for movies, to the point that I plan to act in them, write them, and direct them in (hopefully) the near future. While I have a good memory for movies in general, there are some that I randomly find myself thinking about: the themes, the message, the acting, the look, etc. could all be the cause of this. For the most part, I have no one to discuss movies with because I always end up with friends who aren't, say, as experimental as I can be with their movie choices (my Netflix queue stays at 500), so I'm going to start discussing movies and television shows here! First up: The 2004 movie Closer, starring Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, Jude Law, and Natalie Portman. Below is, in my opinion, the best scene of the movie. Warning: NSFW!!!!!

Here's a synopsis, full of spoilers. Julia Roberts is Anna, Natalie Portman is Alice, Jude Law is Dan, and Clive Owen is Larry. Alice is an American stripper in London who quits when she starts dating Dan, who appears to be a "good guy" (in that he's sweet and sensitive in bed, and wears glasses) until after a year of dating Alice (and writing a successful book about her life), he becomes obsessed with having an affair with Anna. They eventually do, after Anna starts dating and later marries Larry, who appears to be a "bad guy" (in that he treats women like whores in bed). After Larry admits to sleeping with a prostitute on a business trip, Anna uses this indiscretion to admit to her affair and finally leave Larry, and Dan leaves Alice to be with Anna. After this Alice goes back to stripping, and the scene above happens. When Anna needs Larry's signature to finalize their divorce (so she can presumably marry Dan), he tells her that he'll only sign if she has sex with him one more time. She does. Dan knows, immediately, that this has happened, and leaves her. She returns to Larry after this. Jude returns to Alice, who she then dumps after he insists that she tell him whether she slept with Clive. Sounds very convoluted and soapy, and I guess it is, with very good acting.

What I think about the most is the virgin/whore dichotomy between Alice and Anna. Now, I know better than to think that women are either virgins or whores, as I talked about in a previous post, but most of Western Hemisphere has spent decades creating media that supports this notion, and a lot of people grow up to believe it. Alice is a young, beautiful, vibrant pink-haired stripper. Seems like the whore. Anna is an older, sensible professional photographer, still beautiful but not in a way that attracts a lot of attention. The "virgin", the wife. And yet, Alice is the character who stays faithful to Dan through the end, even when they were broken up. Anna, on the other hand:
1) Sleeps with Dan while he's dating Alice.
2) Marries Larry while sleeping with Dan.
3) Continues to sleep with Dan while married to Larry, even in their home.
4) Cheats on Dan with Larry so he will sign the divorce papers, in the clearest example of her giving sex for gain.

This woman is slinging cooch all over the place, but she's the one that these idiots both want to marry? I guess what I like is how these roles were reversed, and you can't assume which one is faithful or faithless by their appearance. Alice makes her money off of sex and her body, but stays faithful to the man that she loves. Anna has men fighting over her hand in marriage, but only seems to connect with them through sex, with the man that she doesn't have. She also pimps herself to Larry for a divorce. But does this reversal really say anything new about women and sex. Even though the virgin and the whore weren't who I expected them to be, making them a little more complex, that theme was still present. And the "virgin", the faithful Alice gets her man back (and chooses to leave him), whereas the faithless Anna gets stuck with the husband who treats her like a whore. My automatic inclination is that they both got what they deserve. I would have more sympathy for Anna if she hadn't surrounded herself with so much adultery and deception. But the entertainment industry has a history of treating women like cheating on a man, even a man who treats you badly, is akin to murder. You may as well kill him if you're going to humiliate him by sleeping around. Looking at it from this point a view, it's not surprising that Anna bounces between Dan and Larry. Dan treated her like a possession to be won and presumably wouldn't leave Alice to be with her completely, so she married Larry. Larry treats her like a whore in bed, so she continues to sleep with Dan who is more sensitive. And sleeping with Larry to get a divorce is a means to an end so she can be with Dan, the man she truly loves, who then leaves her because, well, he doesn't agree with that line of thinking. His possession has been defiled, and he doesn't want it anymore.

This brings up the issue of male ownership over women's bodies. Alice stops stripping for Dan. Dan must have Anna. Larry treats Anna like a whore in bed, and we see the way he treats Alice in the strip club. And we know that part of the reason he wants to sleep with her is because in his head, she belongs to Dan, and he tells Dan that he had sex with her to hurt him. Larry also has sex with Anna to prove to Dan that her body is still his, even as he signs the divorce papers. Dan leaves Anna because she sleeps with Larry, and harasses Alice to tell him whether she slept with Larry because to him it would be Larry defiling both of his women, even though he and Alice were broken up at the time.

The men compete with each other over first prize Anna and second prize Alice, while the women just seem to be pawns in their silly macho games. Anna tries to play and get what she wants, but ends up loosing, while Alice eventually sees that Dan's return is more about Anna and Larry, then it is about her and extracts herself completely from the situation, making her a very smart girl. I'll leave you with the quote that you heard above, which sadly may be true in a patriarchal society: "Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking her clothes off ... but it's better if you do."

Closer on Netflix
Closer on Amazon


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