I've been hearing lots of negativity about this movie. I think a lot of people have been shocked, frankly, by the raw and rough nature of the film. Having read the play, I've been looking forward to it for about a year now, and it's honestly one of the best plays I've ever read. Mike Nichols presents it in an amazing way, very faithful to the words as they're written.
It's a brutal topic, sex and love, especially when they're combined. I thought the movie was amazing. It captured all of the vulnerability, caustic harshness, and acerbic flirtation that the play vibrated with. All of the cast brought the movie alive. It uplifts and then brings you way down, but that's the point, and yet at the end, I didn't feel depressed or saddened, just really really awake and curious. It's the feeling you get when you get "closer", I suppose.
Natalie Portman, in a tour-de-force performance, is the standout by far. Maybe it's because she's the youngest, and not expected to be that awesome, but she is. Anyways, her Alice is flirty and sweet, caustic and manipulative, evasive and yet very open, sexual and gloomy all in one character. She has the best chemistry with the men - whether it be purely sensual with Clive Owen, or innocence and affection with Jude Law. She comes alive with the two guys, and their scenes are ones to look forward to.
Julia Roberts, whom everyone looks towards, is not bad in this film. She's very understated and good, but she is outshone in nearly every scene by whomever she's acting with.
Clive Owen is absolutely astounding, and he's definitely on everyone's radar screen. As the man of experience and "simplicity", as Jude Law's character comments, he's brash and hotheaded, but also extremely clever. Owen perfectly plays the sleazy, unlikeable character, but somehow manages to appeal to the audience and even though he's a disagreeable character, I think many managed to find something all right about him - Owen's human sense in Larry.
Jude Law is simply very very good; neither astounding nor bad. The only reason he does not stand out is the fact that we've all expected him to do a good performance. And he does, he has a great performance. He and Portman have amazing scenes together, and he's always on par.
Simply put, the movie is not for everyone; it's a mature adult flick, and does not back down from anything. It's high drama - with all the uplifting romance and brutal arguments of relationships. It's a story about people.