Rated 3.0

Two couples (Jude Law and Natalie Portman, and Julia Roberts and Clive Owen) enact a cruel, painful roundelay of pursuit, seduction, adultery and betrayal, by turns dumping each other and begging for one more chance. Written by Patrick Marber (from his play) and directed by Mike Nichols (returning to ground he first explored 33 years ago in Carnal Knowledge), this one has “serious work of art” written all over it. But it’s a bit too serious and too arty—obsessive, in fact, like a person using a ruler to straighten his postage stamps. Strong acting and meticulous direction can’t conceal that Marber’s script is the kind of airless four-person universe that works much better onstage. Plus, the Everly Brothers’ oldie “Love Hurts” gives you just as much insight in three minutes as this movie does in 101.