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the Complete Review
the complete review - drama


Patrick Marber

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Closer

Title: Closer
Author: Patrick Marber
Genre: Drama
Written: 1997
Length: 88 pages
Availability: Closer - US
Closer - UK
Closer - Canada
Tout contre - France
Hautnah - Deutschland
  • First performed at the Royal National Theatre 22 May 1997
  • First performed in New York 9 March 1999, in a production directed by Marber and starring Anna Friel, Rupert Graves, and Natasha Richardson
  • Both the London and New York productions received numerous prizes
  • Closer was made into a film in 2004, directed by Mike Nichols, and starring Natalie Portman as Alice, Julia Roberts as Anna, Jude Law as Dan, and Clive Owen as Larry

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Our Assessment:

A- : sharp dialogue, though there's ultimately a bit too much back and forth in the play

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
New York A 5/4/1999 John Simon
The NY Times . 26/3/1999 Ben Brantley
The New Yorker . 5/4/1999 John Lahr
Newsweek . 5/4/1999 Jack Kroll
The Spectator . 21/6/1997 Sheridan Morley
Time A- 5/4/1999 Richard Zoglin
TLS . 13/6/1997 Lucy Atkins
The Village Voice B 6/4/1999 Michael Feingold

  Review Consensus:

  Generally quite impressed

  From the Reviews:
  • "Patrick Marber's Closer is a sad, savvy, often funny play that casts a steely, unblinking gaze at the world of relationships and lets you come to your own conclusions. (...) Marber tells his story in short, staccato scenes in which the unsaid talks as loudly as the said. The dialogue is almost entirely stichomythic, the occasional speech still not much longer than a few lines. There are frequent pauses, but not of the Pinteresque variety -- more like skipped heartbeats. (...) Closer does not merely hold your attention; it burrows into you." - John Simon, New York

  • "(A) powerful, darkly funny play about the cosmic collision between the sun of love and the comet of desire. (...) The key element in pornography is the absence of love. What's new about Closer is that it's a play about love that's fighting fiercely not to become pornography -- or a play merely about lust, about appetite." - Jack Kroll, Newsweek

  • "Closer is a bruising dissection of modern relationships, in which sex is the subject even when it's not, honesty is frequently not the best policy, and people with choices almost always make the wrong one. (...) Closer is such a shrewd piece of contempo-realism that its shortcomings as drama might be overlooked. (...) Like a skilled hooker, Closer is satisfying mainly in the moment; as a lasting experience, it leaves something to be desired." - Richard Zoglin, Time

  • "Love, here, is founded on deception and lies. Each character assembles fictions -- from photographs or writing, pornography or personal history -- but, in so doing, they also steal from each other. (...) Marber's thematic material is intricate and always intelligently handled, but he is inclined to overstatement. (...) (T)he power-struggles in the quest for love, the damage inflicted by them and the ultimate disillusionment of the lovers all ring true; Closer is both absorbing and funny." - Lucy Atkins, Times Literary Supplement

  • "(T)he piece is Les Liaisons dangereuses with the moral component removed, carried on in the alternately blunt and secretive spirit of a cutthroat bridge tournament. As in his earlier play, Dealer's Choice, Marber is sharply observant in mapping the clashes that arise as his compulsively faithless characters dive eagerly toward their next betrayal. As before, he's less sharp in finding a dramatic shape for his observations." - Michael Feingold, The Village Voice

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Only four characters appear in Closer, two women and two men. Alice is a young lost soul, a self-described waif who works as a stripper. One-time would-be writer Dan writes obituaries. Anna is a photographer. Larry is a dermatologist. Closer follows their relationships over an extended period, leaping ahead months and even years in almost each of the twelve scenes to the next decisive meeting or confrontation.
       The play opens in a hospital waiting room. Alice was hit by a car, though not badly hurt, and Dan has brought her here. It's a great scene, as they feel each other out, the dialogue devastatingly sharp. Alice is wary and cynical, but also incredibly vulnerable, and Marber conveys it all in these first few pages. Her desperation shimmers through, even as she tests Dan. Disarmingly she reveals herself, careful not to play as easily with words as Dan might:

DAN. What do you want ?
ALICE. To be loved.
DAN. That simple ?
ALICE. It's a big want.
       She decides on Dan, decides to love him -- and there's no question that she can't seduce him into at least giving her the semblance of what she wants. But, as she said, it's a big want.
       The second scene jumps already more than a year ahead. Dan has written a book, which is about to be published; it is, essentially, Alice's book, as he has taken her and made a book of her. Of course, he doesn't get it right; as Alice later explains:
LARRY. It's about you, isn't it ?
ALICE. Some of me.
LARRY. Oh ? What did he leave out ?
ALICE. The truth.
       The scene opens with another expropriation, Dan being photographed by Anna, publicity shots. He sees himself on the verge of being the person he had dreamed of becoming, an author with all the trappings. He also sees Anna, an attractive and adult woman, separated from her husband, with her own career: a far cry, it would seem, from the needy Alice. He like what he sees.
       Anna has read the manuscript, and quotes from it, and Dan's response makes pretty clear in what direction he's moving:
ANNA. "She has one address in her address book; ours ... under 'H' for home."
DAN. I've cut that line.
ANNA. Why ?
DAN. Too sentimental.
       Dan doesn't leave Alice, but he longs for Anna, a preferable ideal -- not story-matter or faux-daughter, but a real lover
       A cyberspace-chat then brings the fourth into the picture: Larry goes to the "London Fuck" chatroom and gets into a conversation with Dan -- who, however, is posing as Anna. He even convinces Larry to meet him/her. Larry winds up meeting the real Anna, and -- wouldn't you know it ? -- they fall for each other.
       The story continues to jump ahead, Dan and Larry vying for Anna, with Alice a pawn and consolation prize. Alice knew where to find happiness, but Dan couldn't play along; he and the others remain unable to commit themselves to (or be satisfied with) what they have. They dance back and forth, and they fuck -- a lot -- but -- you guessed it -- they don't get any closer (to each other, to what they want out of life, etc.).
       Except for Alice, they are all weak, giving in -- to temptation, to easy pleasure, to the promise of success -- without ever finding much fulfilment. Alice remains needy, but at least she knows exactly what she wants; ultimately, that isn't good enough either.

       Closer is, in part, a searing drama. The dialogue is very good, and there are scenes that play exceptionally well. The time-span covered, however, is a great one -- these events play out over years --, and the back and forth among the characters gets to be a bit much when it's presented in such a condensed form.
       Some of what Marber means to convey is spelt out a bit too clearly (and frequently) -- and is ultimately just too simple --, and he can't sustain the same crispness to the dialogue throughout, but on the whole this is an exceptional and powerful play. Recommended.

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Closer: Reviews: Closer - the movie: Patrick Marber: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Drama books

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About the Author:

       British playwright Patrick Marber was born in 1964.

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© 2004-2010 the complete review

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