(2004) dir. Mike Nichols
Dramas aren’t usually my bag, especially ones adapted from plays. There is always this challenge in converting a play to film and how far one takes it into cinema. I have to say that Mike Nichols actually is pretty deft with this film, in small shots and in the way that the film rolls. The story is a one about the closeness of certain characters, a four-way slow motion car accident of love, sex, cheating, and trying to understand what each one really wants from the others. Of course, it’s mostly small scenes, very dialogue-heavy and low on action. The film from a construction perspective is good. The script certainly has its moments and is, I think, pretty good, too. The problem, I would say, is the acting.
It’s Jude Law, Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, and Natalie Portman. And, in that order, the actors are reasonably successful. Law is typically good. I think he is good in most things that I’ve seen him in. Owen works well most of the time, but his coarseness seems a bit much for a doctor, I don’t know. He’s not bad.
The women, on the other hand, struggle to have anything to succeed in. Julia Roberts has a couple of the easier scenes, namely her first scene with Law, that strikes the right tone. When the drama gets heavier, she doesn’t come across right. Natalie Portman, on the other hand, seems utterly miscast. She, like Roberts and many other actors that are well-known celebrities, has an incredibly minute range, playing someone in lighter fare where they simply attempt to be charming…well, they can typically do that. But here, where Portman plays the stripper girl with the strange flittishness and off-beat charms, it’s not good. The scene in the strip joint is the low point. She’s got all the talent of a middle school child in her second year of school play work. It’s actually kind of painful to watch.
It’s hard to utterly criticize this film because I think that the story and the script as well as the production and adaptation are pretty decent. But still, the actors are the main reason that I hadn’t really considered seeing this.