4:13 a.m. 1/10/11/05
I have two simple rules for a movie which will immediately improve its viability tenfold. One, the cello. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The cello is the most beautiful instrument known to humankind. Any movie is better off with a bit of cello in it. The second thing? Do I even need to say it? Ok, I will. More Alan Rickman. There can never be enough Alan. With this in mind, I began watching Close Your Eyes which purports to be a thriller. Since the premise is not hidden, indeed, it’s established almost from the very start-a ‘forbidden’ affair between brother and sister-it seems strangely, well, tame. That could also be because I’m pretty difficult to shock, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
We have number one in the opening minutes of the film. The cello, gorgeous and lush in sound, fills the space around it. It sets a nice mood, and I wait for the movie to fulfill my expectations. Unfortunately, my number two rule isn’t followed, and it’s several minutes without Alan. This would not be as much a problem if the movie is actually interesting to begin with, but there are several flaws that keep it from being half as good as it thinks it is. Warning, I’ve only seen forty minutes of the movie so far, but I feel compelled to review what I have seen. I’ll probably watch the rest of tomorrow or the next day, and I want to comment on the first part while it’s fresh in my mind.
Flaw number one: the leading female isn’t at all attractive to me. Sure, she has really nice breasts, but that’s not enough for me to care about her. I don’t care for blonds, and her face isn’t all that pretty. To add to that, her character is a psychotic nut-job. Even if she were the prettiest woman in the world, she still should come with a warning label. She broods over a guy dumping her after six weeks. She kisses her brother full on the lips-taking pains to let us know he’s her younger brother-then says she doesn’t know why she did that. Herein lies yet another problem.
Not for a minute do I buy Natalie and Richard as brother and sister, Saskia Reeves and Clive Owens respectively. It’s not the fault of the actors, but the fault of the script. There isn’t enough-hell, there isn’t any, really-interaction between them as brother and sister to firmly establish the familial connection. In addition, they grew up apart as their parents divorced when Natalie was….twelve? Something like that. Natalie went with her father, which is another stretch of the imagination. Added thought at a much later date-perhaps this means that she was sexually abused by the father. Anyway, continue. If anybody would have gone with the father, it would have been the boy. The whole first ten minutes is short-hand for their relationship which is supposedly fraught with sexual tension. Since I can’t see them as siblings, it doesn’t exactly bother me when they’re attracted to each other.
That’s the next problem, however. I don’t believe that they’re attracted to each other. There is no sexual chemistry between the two, and it is clearly a script-driven conceit. In fact, the whole movie is based on that premise so when the premise falls through, the whole movie cannot sustain any kind of interest. When Natalie and Richard finally give into their passion, it is curiously flat. I also burst out laughing when Natalie keeps pleading with Richard to make her stop. I have a feeling it’s supposed to be gut-wrenching for her or something, but it’s just silly. This time, it is the fault of Reeves as she can’t carry off the torment very well, especially not with that vacuous look on her face.
I will have to give major props to the movie for one thing-the frank nudity. Not because I’m prurient by nature or anything-though, of course, I am-but because it makes it seem so natural. It’s erotic, but it’s not dirty as it seems to be in this country. The shagging seems healthy and sexual as it should be, except when Natalie and Richard go at it. Then it just seems tepid and boring. Like I said, however, Natalie has really nice breasts and Richard is built nicely as well.
Oh, Alan has entered the picture a few scenes earlier as Natalie’s pompous, wealthy older husband named Sinclair. He’s forty-five at the making of the film and she’s twenty-nine. He does a delightfully droll turn as a self-important business man who doesn’t realize what a crashing bore he is. Of course, since he’s Alan, he can’t help but make the part more interesting than it should be, but he has it down pat. The expansive gestures and the bluster. The belief that every word he utters fascinates all who hear him speak. The shortsightedness not to know what’s going on right under his nose. It’s yet another different kind of character for Alan to play, and he does it as convincingly as anything else.
So the last thing I see is Sinclair and Richard having lunch together at Sinclair’s behest. Sinclair is all buddy-buddy and good will. Oh, I must mention that there’s a moment earlier when Sinclair asks if he meets with the brother’s approval. There is an uncertainty in his voice that belies his blustery exterior. It’s a nice nuance to an otherwise bordering-on-stereotypical character. Anyway, Richard is in a state of bewilderment and most likely uneasy as Sinclair keeps nattering away. Richard is pretty simple in many ways, and I can’t imagine that having lunch with his sister’s husband after fucking said sister would be all the easy for him.
The other laughable thing about the scene between brother and sister is that she keeps saying they have to forget it’s happened. Then she kisses him again. I think she’s trying to convey that it’s beyond her control, but it’s just irritating. She’s acting like a school girl-not like a married woman. Then there’s the fact that she’s the one who requested to meet him to talk about something in private. Then she kisses him, and I’m wondering what it is that she wanted to talk to him about. Needless to say, they never get to that which leads me to believe that she planned on seducing him all along.
I’m not enjoying the movie very much as there isn’t enough Alan or the cello to keep my interest. Owens does a good enough job in his role, but I don’t like the way Reeves plays Natalie, and I simply hate the Natalie character. I don’t understand what’s so irresistible about her, which makes the point of the movie questionable. I also don’t like the fact that the whole movie is based on one conceit that doesn’t really make that much sense, either. I know, I know, I haven’t even seen half of it. It’s just that I’m not very sanguine about it, even though it has the incomparable Mr. Rickman in it. Oh, I’ll watch the rest of it, but I’m trying to keep my expectations down. That way, I can only be pleasantly surprised.
3:06 a.m. 1/13/14/05
Did I say that I would be pleasantly surprised if I kept my expectations low? I did say that, didn’t I? Well, I was wrong. Even though I kept the expectations very low, I was still disappointed in the rest of this movie. I tried to give it the benefit of the doubt, I really did, but it just made no sense whatsoever.
First of all, it’s written by a man, so it shouldn’t be surprising that he misses on Natalie’s character completely. She makes no intrinsic sense, but then again, neither do Richard and Sinclair at various points of the movie. It’s Natalie, however, who bothers me the most. She makes this elaborate plan to see her brother for the weekend-lying to Sinclair in the process. Just an aside, I heard ‘process’ the British way in my head as I typed it. That’s worrisome. Anyway, Natalie meets Richard in Sinclair’s parents’ houses somewhere (!) to ‘talk’. She doesn’t want the affair-well, whatever it’s called as she insists it’s not an affair-to continue. They are going to just talk. Yeah, right. If that happened, then there would be no movie, would there?
Here’s another irritating quirk of the movie. She calls him brother way too much of the time, little brother specifically. He is younger than she, but he doesn’t seem that way. Plus, it’s just the director/writer’s way of underlying their supposed familial relationship in which I don’t believe an iota. If Natalie really wants to just talk to Richard, she wouldn’t have met him for the weekend-lying to Sinclair!-in a secluded mansion. Perhaps she’s fooling herself? No, she’s just a manipulative bitch. I hate her character, and I hope she gets killed by the end of the movie. I don’t buy her for a minute. Plus, where the hell is Alan Rickman?
Here’s my pet peeve these days. I know Alan Rickman is a big star, certainly the biggest star of this movie at the time, but it’s dishonest to make it seem as if he’s the star of the movie when he’s barely in it. Also, why isn’t he getting naked when the brother and sister are going at it willy-nilly? Even the scene in which Natalie and Sinclair are having sex, I don’t get to see much flesh. A major disappointment. Anyway, don’t say he’s the star or imply it with the artwork on the front of the DVD when it’s not true. It just pissed me off even more than watching this movie.
Let me be clear. This is no January Man which is the absolute worse movie I’ve seen that has Alan Rickman in it (Susan Sarandon, too!). There are chunks of the movie which are quite good, but they have nothing to do with the sister/brother imbroglio, which is the center of the movie. Richard’s job is more interesting than his passion for his sister. When he takes his boss (Karl Johnson as Colin-he’s quite good)-who is stricken with AIDS-to a meeting with shady architecture designers, well, I laughed out loud. It’s a hoot, and the movie needs more scenes such as that one.
The scenes with Richard and Sinclair are interesting as well, which leads me to a fantasy about the two of them hooking up. Now that would have surprised me, to say the least. Oh, I have to back up and say one of the more ludicrous scenes of the movie has to do with Sinclair. While Natalie is off cavorting with Richard, pretending to be in a hotel in some tucked-away city, she calls home to lie to Sinclair some more. She makes a point to say-as Richard is kissing her-that she’s getting something to eat then going straight to bed. He’s not to call her that evening, as if he could. She doesn’t give him a number. I wonder why she doesn’t have a mobile as Sinclair has one, but it would grind the movie to a halt if she has one, so that’s the way it goes.
She goes out with Richard on the town. She insists that it’s not an affair. Earlier, she says something about how hard it would be if she was actually having an affair. This is what I don’t believe at all. She tells Richard that they’re not hurting anyone. Excuse me? Does she honestly think that Sinclair would consider it harmless if he knew about her fucking her brother? If so, then why not tell him? To me, that’s worse than a normal affair. She is either unbelievably dense, fooling herself, or a cold-hearted bitch. You may guess that I lean towards the last explanation because I cannot stand her.
Anyway, Sinclair is trying to do the dishes and fucks the machine up somehow. There are suds everywhere. He calls the hotel where Natalie is supposedly staying and finds out that she’s not there. He asks for the number for every hotel in the city. This is how he finds out? This is how he becomes suspicious? Lame! Lame, lame, lame. It’s so unbelievable, I want to scream. Alan is wonderful in portraying his feelings in realizing that Natalie lied to him-the scene in which he talks to himself at the grocery store is great-but the circumstances stink.
When she comes home, he questions her about the hotel. She makes up more lies and thinks he believes her. Obviously, he doesn’t, but that’s neither here nor there. Supposedly, Natalie is having regrets. Even though she’s told Richard how she feels like nothing around Sinclair, even though Sinclair dominates her completely, she really does love him. So, of course, she and Richard have to stop what they’re doing. She keeps saying this, but she keeps touching him. She lets him give her one kiss, but then she hurries away. Again, it’s meant to seem like she’s conflicted, but it comes off as she’s just a self-absorbed bitch who doesn’t care about anybody other than herself.
Back to the scene with Richard and Sinclair having a private picnic. There’s a great throwaway line which Richard utters to the boat navigator, and the scene that follows is intriguing as well. Sinclair tells Richard that he believes Natalie is having an affair. When Richard asks something about Sinclair seeing signs, Sinclair retorts, ‘Signs? She’s wearing a big placard on her forehead that says she’s fucking someone else.’ I start at the use of profanity, and I realize how effective it is when it’s used sparingly. Anyway, I wonder why Sinclair is telling Richard. He can’t believe that Richard won’t go back and tell Natalie. Then I conclude that Sinclair knows. He’s got some plan, and I begin to have a spark of interest.
Unfortunately, Natalie is soon back, and the movie comes to a crashing halt again. It turns out that Sinclair and Natalie are moving to America. Connecticut. Sinclair has a deal or something like that. Richard is upset, which is understandable, but he goes ballistic, which isn’t. Up until this point, he’s been a passionate, but pragmatic sort of person. Nothing in his character would lead me to believe that he’s capable of the insanity he displays at the news of his sister leaving. Turns out, he thinks he’s in love with her. He begs her not to go. It’s quite a moving performance, but it doesn’t fit his character. Then she acts like a bitch-which is increasingly becoming her character-and he vows he won’t let her go.
He gets violent with her-while Sinclair is waiting elsewhere-and she pulls away. He goes nuts when he goes home, downing pills, then walking around a construction site where nobody stops him as he staggers around. He goes home, presumably to die, and there’s Natalie looking at him in irritation. She’s come back for the tie she lent him, and she’s lecturing him about making it such a big deal. God, I want him to pop her one. Just once, is that too much to ask? I really, really hate her. I wish she’d just disappear from the movie.
To make an excruciatingly long story short, Richard goes to the going away party and starts throttling Natalie in full view of many other people who don’t do a thing to stop him. Nothing! Not even go and tell Sinclair. What the fuck is that about? He chases her around the estate, screaming that he’s going to kill her. Yes! It’s about time! Finally, the payoff! They are lying on a road and a truck is coming. All he has to do is jump off her, and she’ll be squashed flat. Nope, he pulls her to the side, and they talk. She admits she used him, blah, blah, blah. I’m just crushed that she’s not dead. They limp back to the party where everybody stares at them, but nobody had apparently cared to check and see if they were all right. Sinclair gets the best line here, too, when he looks at them, both disheveled, and deadpans, ‘Something tells me that’s the end of the party.’ Oh, it turns out that the deal ‘fell through’, and they were staying in England after all. Privately, I don’t think there was ever a deal. Sinclair staged the whole thing to force a confrontation.
In the last scene, Sinclair admits he knew something was going on between the two of them. Something perverse. He didn’t need to know more than that. He gives an exquisitely delicate performance here, but again, it’s all wrong for a man of his psychology. I’m not saying he should have jumped up and down and screamed, as that wouldn’t have been in keeping with his persona, either, but he should have coldly dismissed Natalie from the house. Then again, by tacitly telling them it’s ok as long as it’s over, he shows more depth than I would have expected from his character. Either way, I loathe the ending of this movie as Natalie is still alive.
In short, the pluses are the cello, Alan Rickman’s great performance, Clive Owens’ solid performance and his very nice body which he shows off much of the time, Alan Rickman’s smile, and some of the scenes in which Natalie isn’t present. Sadly, though, it’s not enough for me to recommend it for your Netflix Queue if Netflix carried it, which they don’t. Rent Dogma or Truly Madly Deeply instead if you can’t get enough Rickman. Hell, rent Die Hard over this movie, or any of the Harry Potter films. You have a better chance of being entertained by any of them than by this misguided attempt at a shocking movie which just couldn’t stand up to the hype.