Movie Reviews

The Wife – A Subtle Showcase

Glenn Close is coming for that Oscar!

Synopsis: Based on the novel by the bestselling author Meg Wolitzer, THE WIFE interweaves the midcentury story of a couple’s youthful passion and ambition with a portrait of a marriage, thirty-plus years later—a lifetime’s shared compromises, secrets, betrayals, and genuine, mutual love. (Mongrel Media)

Starring: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, and Christian Slater

Writer: Jane Anderson

Director: Björn Runge

Rating: 14A (Canada)/R (United States)

Running Time: 100mins

Trailer: 

The Wife has received plenty of hype ever since its premiere at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, primarily for veteran actress Glenn Close. Many believe that this film may be her next best chance of winning an elusive Oscar. After having watched the film, those beliefs are definitely warranted as her performance is more than worthy of a Best Actress Oscar though winning will be easier said than done considering her other competition this year. In regards to the film itself, it has plenty more to offer than Close’s performance.

Close plays Joan Castleman, the wife of famed author Joseph Castleman (Pryce). Once Joseph was chosen to win a Nobel Prize for Literature, her resentment and repressed feelings slowly began to surface. Joan loved her husband and had been a staunch supporter of him for the last 30+ years and supporting her husband meant she had to make many tough decisions along the way. The story gave us an idea of these tough decisions as it flashbacked to when Joan and Joseph first met and fell in love. Those who have read the book in which the film is based know more about this angle but the film could have gone deeper with Joan’s struggle with the misogyny of the time and how it made her the person she became.

The film was a slow burn but every minute of it was earned. All those feelings that Joan was feeling were clearly there, either on her face or through her body language. She may not have spoken much but her actions spoke volumes. In fact, it was Joseph who did most of the talking anyway, at least at first. The sudden recognition that came with the Nobel Prize was a boost to his already massive ego. This recognition felt like a slight towards Joan that she had no choice but to endure. Joan and Joseph’s son David (Max Irons), an aspiring writer, desperately wanted his father’s approval but instead, Joseph seemed to be avoiding him and this took a toll on him as well. The film could also have gone further here. Things quickly got worse for them when the three traveled to Stockholm so Joseph could accept his prize.

Something was clearly going to happen between the three but another wrinkle was added when an overzealous biographer named Nathaniel Bone (Slater) hounded the family in the hopes of writing a biography of Joseph despite Joseph constantly refusing his many advances. Over the course of the film, it was clear that all the repressed feelings were going to come out eventually since Joseph wasn’t exactly making it easy on everyone, single handedly alienating his family with his ego and pretentiousness. It finally took the revealing of a longtime secret between Joan and Joseph to bring it all crashing down. This was a real tragedy to behold and powerful to watch between Joan and Joseph as it revealed their true selves but it was also a massive weight lifted off of Joan’s shoulders.

Ultimately, this film would not have worked without the performances of Jonathan Pryce but especially Glenn Close as Jonathan and Joan Castleman respectively. Their rollercoaster marriage was compelling to watch throughout. It was a slow burn but every moment along the way felt earned. Regardless, this was always going to be Close’s film and she definitely made it count. Her subtle yet powerful performance was terrific. Her mastery of conveying so much emotion through glances, facial expressions, and body language was like no other and meant more than any dialog ever could. Her chemistry with Pryce made him an excellent sparring partner though he was great in his own right with a layered performance that is better appreciated over the course of the film.

Overall, this was a great drama that was definitely deserving of all the hype and was not only serves as an award-worthy showcase for Glenn Close but was a compelling, rollercoaster multi-character study in its own right that could have admittedly gone deeper in certain areas. The competition may be tough but we will certainly still be talking about this film come award season.

Score: 9/10

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