By Peter Bowes
BBC News, Los Angeles
The early buzz of Oscar success has begun to circulate around the dark dramatic comedy Closer, starring Jude Law and Julia Roberts, which opens in the US on 3 December.
Love is complicated for Law and Roberts in Closer
The film's title is deliberately ambiguous as Closer is all about love, sex and betrayal.
It plunges to extreme depths in its use of sexually-explicit language and explores the tangled web of emotions that we all, supposedly, experience at some point in our lives.
Set in contemporary London and directed by Mike Nichols, the film follows the entwined relationships of four people - their lies, jealousies and fantasies.
Roberts, Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen play the principal characters.
The story has already won many accolades for its stage production. Patrick Marber's drama debuted in London in 1997.
It won the Laurence Olivier/BBC Award for Best New Play and the London Critics Award.
The subsequent Broadway production was nominated for a Tony Award.
The theatrical structure of the piece, based on a series of powerful vignettes, has been mimicked in the movie.
Owen's character, a doctor, falls in love with a photographer played by Roberts - only to have her lured away by a besotted obituary writer, played by Law.
The characters could be variously described as enthralling, pitiful or simply real.
Clive Owen and Natalie Portman make up the film's troubled quartet
"It's got an honesty to it," says Law. "It certainly doesn't need a warning sticker. I think the honesty in it means that you can come out of it hopefully having felt something and learned something - that's a positive."
Much of the vulgar language comes in a scene involving an Internet chat room.
"When people start talking - it's so shocking it's so dark, you tend to think that that's being presented as a shock tactic to upset," Owen explains.
"It's a very human very intelligent, witty piece of writing.
If you're a guy or a girl of a certain age with any sort of emotional history you've been through some of those scenes - you've been in that place."
Portman plays an erotic dancer who completes the love-struck and cheating quartet. It was a role, she says, that required some research.
"I read a lot and went to a few strip clubs and took a few lap dancing lessons, pole dancing lessons.
"It's dark but the way people behave is funny, it's funny to recognise and funny to relate to. People shouldn't think it's two hours of fantasy fun."
Roberts, who gave birth to twins last weekend, missed the ritual publicity blitz associated with the movie.
Portman learned from the experience of her older co-stars
Her performance in Closer has attracted some of the best reviews of the Oscar-winner's career and Roberts appears to be heading for another Academy Award nomination.
"I had a great time working with Julia," Law says. She was great fun, incredibly professional. I think she's magnificent in the film."
"She's so cool and down to earth and fun and funny and smart," adds Portman. "She was so sweet to work with. I learned a lot watching her act because she really knows what she's doing."
Owen says he was also "hugely impressed" by Roberts.
"She's one of those actors that makes it look so easy. She's incredibly smart and savvy and knows what she's doing and keeping that relaxed and open in front of the camera is incredibly difficult."
Closer opens in the UK in January 2005.