A wife questions her life choices as she travels to Stockholm with her husband, where he is slated to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.
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Over the years, actress Glenn Close has been nominated for six Academy Awards for her performances in everything from Fatal Attraction
to The Big Chill
, but she's never won. That may change with The Wife
is about an author named Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce from Something Wicked This Way Comes
) who is awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He travels to Stockholm, Sweden, to accept his award, accompanied by his proud and loving wife, Joan (Close), and envious son, David (The Host
's Max Irons). During the whirlwind press tour, a reporter named Nathaniel Bone (Christian Slater from Heathers
and Pump Up the Volume
) conducts off-the-cuff interviews with both Joan and David, seemingly trying to dig up some dirt on Joe. What he does uncover is a well-kept secret that suggests that Joan's involvement in her husband's career may be much more than simply supporting his art.
Directed by Björn Runge (Daybreak
, Mouth to Mouth
) from a screenplay by Jane Anderson ("Olive Kitteridge") based on the novel of the same name by Meg Wolitzer (This is My Life
, Surrender, Dorothy
), The Wife
takes the age-old adage of "behind every great man is a great woman" and runs with it. It's a very well written script, very subtle and organic, and it gives its audience enough credit to let them figure things out for themselves. The surprises and twists of the semi-mystery are just predictable enough to make the viewer feel like they're a step ahead of the game, like they get the big picture about a second before everyone else does.
While it's not at all a thriller, The Wife
is a thrilling story. It's a more sensational movie than it would initially seem, with a great arc that starts understated and serious, but progresses along to melodramatic and loony by the end, stopping just short of venturing into Mommie Dearest
territory. Thankfully, it never crosses the "No Wire Hangers!" threshold, but Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce do get to have a little campy fun after all of their solemn thespian-ing.
is a very well-put together movie. It doesn't start out as a vehicle for Glenn Close, but as her character takes charge of the situation, Close's performance becomes the film's main focus. Which is fine, because it's also the strongest aspect of the movie. Glenn Close is the dependable anchor of an already steady ship. It may be the only statue it wins, but The Wife
should at least take home the Oscar for Best Actress.
That great arc that was mentioned earlier lets the stars of The Wife
roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. Both Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce turn in wonderful performances, alternating between exchanging loving embraces and verbal jabs. Pryce plays his flawed Pulitzer Prize-winning author with grace, confidence, and almost a touch of sympathy. I say "almost" a touch of sympathy because Close's character doesn't let him have any. Close's Joan is, at first, happy and gracious to stand by her man, but as the movie goes on, her jealous insecurities start to rage and she screams out for justice, sometimes literally. For the most part, Pryce is smart to stay out of Close's way, because she commands the screen for every frame that she is on it. Close's performance morphs from restrained to over-the-top with pinpoint accuracy. It's both technically impressive and a hell of a lot of fun to watch.
Christian Slater leads the support cast by doing exactly what his character is there to do: stir the pot. At first, his Nathaniel seems like an admirer of the famous author, but he really acts as a catalyst to get both Joan and David riled up. And he does it well. Operating under the innocent excuse of "just doing his job," Slater slyly nods repeatedly towards an ulterior motive for his actions. And speaking of David, Max Irons is splendid as the son who, also a writer, lives deep in the shadow of his father when all he wants is acceptance and appreciation. It's a common character, but Irons plays it with nuance.
It's also worth noting that Glenn Close's daughter, Annie Starke (We Don't Belong Here
) plays Close's character as a young woman alongside Harry Lloyd (The Iron Lady
), who appears as the young Joe Castleman. Starke is not given much to do, but she does play a suitable version of the woman that would turn into the one that Close plays so brilliantly. Every piece of the cast in The Wife
is convincing, but Glenn Close is the superstar.