Larry (to Dan): "Have you ever seen a human heart? It looks like a fist, wrapped in blood! Go fuck yourself! You writer! You liar!"
The movie version of Patrick Marber's 1997 play Closer opens with two beauties walking towards each other down a mobbed London sidewalk, the rhythm set by the Irishman Damien Rice's plaintive song "The Blower's Daughter". They move in the most languorous slow motion and so, like the pair — Dan (Jude Law), an obituary writer and aspiring novelist, and Alice (Natalie Portman), a stripper — we readily slip into an erotic trance, almost by habit, and shut out the unidealized ambient realities. But reality won't be ignored: the American Alice looks to her left when crossing the street and is knocked down by a cab. When she comes to, however, her amorous instinct has not been sleeping: she looks up at Dan and says coyly, "Hello, stranger."
Marber and the director Mike Nichols transplant this meeting out of fairy tale (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty) and romanticized saga (Wagner's Siegfried) into the world we know. Dan takes Alice to the ER, where they continue flirting; she accompanies him to his office building where he admits that he already has a girlfriend. This won't stop him from pursuing Alice, however, and as moviegoers we hope that he and Alice will get together because they're so good-looking and we haven't even seen the GF anyway, so she's not really a person to us. In any event, our moviegoer's "romantic" urge is gratified, and, as the movie shows in scenes spread over the following four years, all of the major characters live out the consequences.
When we next see Dan, he's being photographed for the cover of his soon-to-be-published novel, and though he's still with Alice, he presses himself on Anna (Julia Roberts), the photographer, who tells him "No," by which she means both, "Grow up!" and "Maybe." Peeved, Dan goes into a cybersex chat room pretending to be Anna and arranges for a hook-up at the London Aquarium where he knows she likes to photograph strangers. Larry (Clive Owen), the randy dermatologist at the other end, shows up and is amazed to find that the nasty girl from the Internet is not an "old trout." On the other hand, the comely Anna is not aware that she was meeting anyone and so Larry has to push for a response. Despite the awkward situation, Larry fares better than Dan did — he's charming, albeit in a rougher way, but he's available.
As a couple, Anna and Larry laugh about Dan's Internet mischief, dubbing him "Cupid," but they haven't seen the last of him. He shows up at Anna's one-woman exhibit and throws himself at her again, while from across the gallery Alice and Larry comment snidely on their partners who are engaged in an "intense" conversation. Alice, with a lover's ESP, has been dismayed by Anna since the day Dan was photographed. The photo Anna snapped of Alice in tears that day is in the exhibit, which Alice finds no better than artfully mendacious. Larry is turned on by Alice but pulls back; commitment is a moral rather than hormonal imperative with him, but an imperative nonetheless.