MOVIE: THE WIFE
STARRING: GLENN CLOSE; JONATHAN PRYCE; CHRISTIAN SLATER; MAX IRONS
DIRECTED BY: BJORN RUNGE
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
Behind every great man is an even greater woman. The Wife, starring Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce (Game of Thrones), is not a movie that is saying anything extremely new, I mean, there have been plenty of movies that reveal women have been shortchanged in life due to sexism, but it is doing it extremely well. Glenn Close delivers a near perfect performance as Joan Castleman, wife to acclaimed author and newly awarded Nobel Peace Prize winner Joe Castleman (Pryce). Being awarded is a fantastic honor for the writer, but it also unearths a secret that the couple has been hiding since the beginning of their marriage. The Wife is a balanced drama, with fantastic performances from the entire cast, including Close, who will most likely earn another Oscar nomination.
The screenplay, written by Jane Anderson (from the Meg Wolitzer novel “The Wife”) and direction from Bjorn Runge is aware of two things: 1) They have Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce as a married couple and 2) it's best to let the two thespian actors play in the sand box, becoming a real, bickering, full-fledged married couple. That's really all it takes. The couple shows a fascinating amount of highs and lows from scene to scene, along with the interjections of parties, introductions to other Nobel winners, or from a reporter named Nathanial Bone (Christian Slater) who might know a secret or two. Cut in-between are flashbacks to Joan as a student at Broward College, where she met Joe as an inspiring English professor. The connection between one another was instant, leading to the break up Joe's first marriage, and creating a bond in their writing that was unbreakable.
The problems that lie in The Wife stem from it feeling like a movie that we've seen before. One immediately that came to my mind was Tim Burton's colorful film about artist Margaret Keane- Big Eyes. Although the narratives feel similar, it is the performance from Close that raises The Wife above simple cliched moments. Once the couple arrives to Stockholm, the layers of the marriage begin to peel. Joe's constant flirting with his personal photographer. His arrogant attitude towards his son David's (Max Irons) writing, and his unwillingness to relinquish full credit to the real writer- his wife. All of these scenes add-up to a mountain of resentment, with Close strongly portraying the woman who's lived in shadows as the second fiddle. With perfect body language, facial cues, and dialogue delivery, Close reminds everyone that she's always been this great, we just don't give her enough of these powerful roles.
The path that The Wife takes to get its final conclusion is an interesting, psychological look at what commitment, love, and family means. Director Runge seems to be asking the audience how they would have handled the dynamic if they were Joe and Joan? Does one continue to live happily, knowing they will never be given the credit they deserve, just to achieve a common goal? Should we be comfortable with creating a legendary author, fully knowing that behind the scenes the “author” barely wrote a single letter? Do lies make us happier than the truth? These are honest questions. They are questions that we get an answer to, but I am not sure the audience will be happy with the choices that Joan makes. She is the great woman behind the great man. The Wife shows us who is boss.
Written by: Leo Brady