Closer Mike Nichols

Director Mike Nichols — who made The Graduate in 1969 — seems to be at the height of his powers after a lull through most of the 1990s, returning with the ambitious (and remarkable) mini-series Angels in America and now Closer, projects that deal with adults and life instead of test markets and focus groups. And it's his deft handling of some of the highest profile talent around that makes Closer such a compelling project to watch. In a complicated foursome that moves through various romantic combinations over the course of the film, the radiating star power of Jude Law and Julia Roberts is the molten core of Closer's lava, but it's the cooler rock of Clive Owen and Natalie Portman that truly steals the show. Adapted from Patrick Marber's stage play (on stage, Clive Owen played the role inhabited by Jude Law in the film), Closer focuses on flash points in unfolding relationships between the four protagonists, all of whom attract and repel each other in various ways. By moving forward in time quite briskly, the film never bogs down in the minutiae of each situation, yet reveals enough to make it seem familiar and draw our heart's attention. The emotional drain on the viewer may not make Closer weekly viewing — and the lack of DVD extras won't have you coming back for more — but for touching, heartfelt pain, misery and emotional torture, few films will seem as true. Plus: Damien Rice music video. (Columbia/Sony)