April 02, 2005


Last night I was finally able to watch this film, directed by Mike Nichols and adapted by Patrick Marber from his own play. Given the talent behind the scenes and the quality of the cast – Natalie Portman, Clive Owen, Jude Law and Julia Roberts – I had been looking forward to it for some time. On the whole it was worth the wait. It looks great, the entire cast is very good, and Owen’s performance is exceptionally marvelous. The only major problem that I have with it is a matter of the script and structure. After the first twenty or thirty minutes every scene is one extremely tense moment after another. Basically the script skips over months or years at a time, and only shows you the moments in these characters’ lives when they have their most raw arguments, choose to expose their betrayals, and emerge aching and wounded. While many of these moments are very well written and acted, I imagine this design worked much better on the stage. Simply watching these events on a screen probably lessens their impact given that they are just presented in a stream, one after another. It is likely harder to maintain a consistent visceral reaction, even to these types of event, without greater variation, dynamism or movement in the fights we witness when we are viewing them in a more distanced way. But that is just a marginal criticism. It’s not the best film of the 2004, and it’s certainly not a first-date kind of a movie, but it’s quite well done. And I’d say it’s worth watching on the basis of Owen and Portman’s performances alone.

Posted by armand at April 2, 2005 10:47 AM | TrackBack | Posted to Movies


I suppose I'm in the relatively unique position of being able to comment on your thoughts as someone who saw both the film (in the theatre) and the play before that, as staged in Pittsburgh by Quantum Theatre. When I saw it staged, it was a first date, and the eroticism of the staging and the performances did more good than harm. Of course, that relationship, if you can call it that, lasted all of a month. I saw the film with an ex-girlfriend, a different one, and we enjoyed it.

I think you're right that the staging made it easier to process the concatenation of climaxes, although perhaps not as much as you might think. The set was very inventive and changed very very little from one situation to the next (and did so quickly) so the play provided little more respite than the play.

All in all, I though both were excellent, though for some reason I preferred the play's geographical inversion -- that is, the Americans in London of the movie were English in the U.S. in the play (and vice-versa).

Notwithstanding that she's now unequivocally legal, Portman continues to be such a nymphet that my preoccupation with her astonishing and genuinely sexy performance made me feel guilty every time I thought about it for the next week, which was often.

I also thought Julia Roberts performed marvelously in a wholly unglamorous role, confirming my feeling that her odd beauty has led people to vastly underestimate her talent, which was on full display. It's true, however, that Owen stole the show, in sum.

Posted by: joshua at April 2, 2005 03:22 PM | PERMALINK

Your point about the geographical inversion is interesting. One other point occurs to me - on stage Clive Owen played Dan (the role Jude Law plays in the film). From an acting standpoint I have to think that must have strengthened his performance - helping him know just the right ways to play against a character he had already played.

Posted by: Armand Knight at April 2, 2005 03:38 PM | PERMALINK

that reminds me of the shepherd play they staged on broadway a couple of years ago where those two big-named three-named actors (i never ever ever can hold either of their names) took turns night be night playing the two brothers. i would have liked to have seen that both ways. i didn't know owen played closer on stage. that does explain his strength in many ways. i have trouble imagining him in the less dominant role.

Posted by: joshua at April 2, 2005 05:57 PM | PERMALINK
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