The relationships of four damaged people come under the microscope of director
|Written By:||Patrick Marber (based on his play)|
Dan meets Alice when the two lock eyes while walking toward each other on a busy London sidewalk; they meet when she’s hit by a car while crossing the street because she’s locked into that stare. And so the theme of love and sexual attraction leading to pain and disaster gets introduced early. We skip ahead in time a year or so and Dan and Alice are living together–but he finds himself drawn to Anna, a photographer assigned to his picture for a book jacket. She’s drawn to him but rebuffs him when he admits he has a girlfriend; hurt, he plays a practical joke by pretending to be Anna and having Internet sex with an anonymous man (Larry) and enticing him to meet the real Anna. The joke backfires and Larry and Anna end up together. None of that violates our No Spoilers Whenever Possible rule; that’s all setup, moving the chess pieces into position on the board. After our couples are solidly coupled off, then the emotional fireworks begin.
This movie relies on its actors even moreso than most films and the actors here do not disappoint. Both Portman (a courageous performance in a very risky role for her) and Owen were Oscar-nominated for their performaces and Roberts certainly could have (should have?) been. (It’s easy for us to forget sometimes that Julia Roberts has talent; her movie-star shine sometimes obscures her three Oscar nods and
Yet while these people feel real, they don’t feel like people I’d want to spend much time with.None of them has any idea what they really want; all are manipulative and cruel in some way. Dan is selfish, shallow and suffers from a severe case of “grass-is-greener” syndrome; Anna’s a coward who doesn’t feel she’s worthy of love; Larry’s angry, hurtful and far too obsessed with sex; Alice is too needy and, later, too cold. The two hours spent in these people’s presence while watching the movie was plenty for me.
To say that
And speaking talking dirty, here’s something odd: for a story that centers so much around sex, there are exactly zero sex scenes in this movie; there’s barely as much as any kissing between any of its pretty leads.