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Alternate Title: Lookin' for Love in All the Wrong Places

Story:Warning! If you are seeking a feel-good, life affirming holiday story about relationships do not go to see this film. It is probably not a good date movie either.

Director Mike Nichols delivers an elegant film about four people and their intertwining lives. It is based on the play by Patrick Marber (he also wrote the screenplay). These four outwardly beautiful people are emotional train wrecks and find malignant ways of destroying one another. The very worst parts of the human psyche are nakedly revealed in this talky, visually beautiful, sleek film.

The movie covers three years in the lives of these four people. The time line is presented in a clever way and the audience is kept on its toes by watching these characters deliver their intelligent dialogue.

The hardest part about watching these four destructive souls is that is is tough to be sympathetic towards of them. However, if you are interested in a film about love, loss, power, infidelity, jealousy, lust and revenge you must check it out. (They are also really pretty to look at). There is no sex, but lots of chit chat about sex.

Acting: Four very good performances but my hat goes off to Clive Owen (Croupier) , as the dermatologist, who has the meatiest role in the film. He is handsome, smart, large than life and if you have never seen him before, his performance alone is worth the price of admission. Jude Law , as the obituary writer/novelist, in his 300th performance of 2004 is also good, but even I, who likes Jude Law, thinks he needs to take a big screen break. Natalie Portman, as the stripper, is wonderful as the youngest member of the cast. She will be with us for a long, long time. And Julia Roberts , does a more than adequate job as the needy photographer. She is such a large presence on the screen it is hard for her to get around her personality that we all know so well. She gives it a good shot.

Predilection: I like Mike Nichols and I really, really like Clive Owen.

Critters: Fish (there's a pivotal scene in an aquarium).

Food: Too much time squabbling with one another to enjoy any meals.

Visual Art: Some interesting photography. Nichols has also created a film where the only things that appear to be in color are the four stars. The rest of the film has a very black, gray and white quality to it.

Blatant Product Placement: Leica

Soundtrack: Haunting.

Opening Titles: A HUGE red graphic of the title moving across the big screen.

Theater Audience: A smattering of after work film goers. I met my friend downtown in the Financial District to see the film so it was a very different type of movie crowd than normal for me.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 0

Drift Range: Not a bit.

Squirm Scale: I squirmed a little at some of the things that the characters said to one another.

Predictability Level: I was not sure where this was going to end.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: I think Clive Owen should get a nomination for his performance.

Nit Picking: No nits to pick.

Big Screen or Rental: Big screen for sure. For some other Mike Nichols' films try: Primary Colors, The Birdcage, Postcards From the Edge, Working Girl, Biloxi Blues, Silkwood, The Gin Game, Carnal Knowledge, Catch 22, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and of course, The Graduate.

LOBO HOWLS: 8