The Wife

wifeSTARS3There’s an old adage that states ‘Behind every great man there’s a great woman.’  The ostensibly uplifting quote hasn’t aged well.  The proverb was originally meant to spotlight women not recognized for their talents.  However the image of women following men can be misinterpreted in a negative way.  The success of the women’s movement has made the notion a bit dated. Yet The Wife is an old-fashioned film.  I was constantly reminded of this saying.  This motion picture is essentially that slogan in cinematic form.

Glenn Close stars as Joan Castleman as the titular spouse of Professor Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce).  Where he is self-absorbed, forceful and celebrated.  She is self-effacing, elegant, and overlooked.  He is an author who is set to receive the Nobel Prize for literature.  It should be a happy occasion for the two of them and it is at first.  The news arrives from a late night phone call.  The two celebrate with unadulterated glee together.  Nevertheless, that announcement ignites a spark that sets off a series of confrontations between the longtime couple.  Their marriage gradually unravels before our eyes.  She accompanies her husband to Stockholm.  When Joe compliments her in his public speeches, she registers subtle disdain for the conspicuous display that appears more for show than sincere gratitude. We observe them now, but we examine them in the past as well.  Flashbacks chronicle Joe (Harry Lloyd) and Joan’s (Annie Starke) relationship in their younger days.  His rise as a successful writer is depicted.  The thinly plotted tale involves a traditional stay-at-home mom and a husband that succumbs to adulterous indiscretions.  The details couldn’t be more mired in cliches.  Even the big reveal is foreseeable.  Still, these particulars give an elaborate background to their history together.  This is a portrait of a marriage that is buckling under long-suppressed emotions.

The Wife doesn’t hold many surprises.  Even the title, with its lightly repressive connotation, telegraphs the tone.  Consider the difference between when a husband refers to “my wife” as opposed to “the wife”.  The screenplay was written by Jane Anderson who adapted Meg Wolitzer’s 2003 novel of the same name.  It’s almost as if the author started with the question “How can I fashion a story around a subjugated woman?”  The Wife is pure Oscar bait – a movie seemingly created with the intention of giving 6-time nominee Glenn Close that elusive Academy Award.  She’s undeniably brilliant in the role.  Close masterfully conveys the nuance of a character that both loves and resents her companion in equal measure.  She hides a slowly building tornado of emotion behind a mask of dignified restraint.  It’s an exquisite achievement. Jonathan Pryce holds his own as “the husband” and Christian Slater is fascinating as a journalist looking to write a possibly sensationalized biography of Joe.  Less effective is Max Irons as their adult son that comes across like a petulant brat.  Also less compelling are the hackneyed elements of a soap opera that undercut the sophistication of Glenn Close’s performance.  Director Björn Runge understands his star is the main attraction. She is the reason to see The Wife. Close is the entire film and she simply shines.


10 Responses to “The Wife”

  1. Happy to read that Close is really good here. Too bad the film around her isn’t very distinguished. I’ll be honest, i haven’t read a single thing about this one (barring this review of course). Has it been out long?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was released on August 17 but only in a few theaters. It has been slowly expanding since so technically 4 weeks. There’s been a fair amount of Oscar buzz surrounding Glenn Close’s performance. At this very early stage I’d say she’s the front runner. It’ll be interesting to see if that buzz is sustained as we delve into the awards season.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I’m guessing the voters are not really going to give Toni Collette the benefit of a nomination, A) because Hereditary was a pure horror film and B) it was released too early/out of prime awards season. If I had a say she’s at the top of my list right now.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Completely agree with everything you just said. (Although I still maintain a shred of hope.) 🙏🏼

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ll be honest, I kind of loved this one. In my top 5 of the year (to this point, but technically this is kind of a 2018 release). Just consistently got better and better. Hoping to finish my post tonight/tomorrow.


  3. I don’t think this is a strong enough performance, but Glen was very good. 3 stars


  4. Hmm… I can’t say it appeals.


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