The Wife, rated R
The Wife is a well-acted film featuring an Oscar nominated performance by Glenn Close that is marred by a large amount of adult language. The film is directed by Bjorn Runge and written by three-time Emmy winner Jane Anderson (Olive Kitteridge, The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom), based on the novel The Wife by Meg Wolitzer.
The film takes place in 1992. Joseph Castleman, played by Golden Globe nominee Jonathan Pryce (Barbarians at the Gate), can’t sleep as he anticipates a call he may get notifying him that he has won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
After eating a candy bar, he initiates sex (nothing explicit is seen), with his reluctant wife Joan, played by seven-time Oscar nominee Glenn Close (Fatal Attraction, The Big Chill, The Natural). The call he was anticipating comes early that morning from Stockholm. We see the two joyfully celebrating by jumping on their bed.
At a party celebrating the award, we meet the couple’s son David, played by Max Irons, and their pregnant daughter Susannah, played by Alix Wilton Regan. David is an aspiring writer who has a chip on his shoulder, angry at his father for not acknowledging his book that he gave him to read, and perhaps for things that have taken place in the past as well. We also begin to see that something is bothering Joan, who should be happy for her husband, but seems a bit uncomfortable and distracted at the party. So what’s bugging Joan? Hmmm….
Jonathan, Joan and David then head to Stockholm for the presentation of the Noble Prize. On the plane we meet writer Nathanial Bone, played by Golden Globe winner Christian Slater (Mr. Robot). For reasons we are not told, Jonathan doesn’t like Nathanial, who wants to write Jonathan’s biography, which Jonathan has declined. In Stockholm, we again notice that something is bothering Joan. It could be Jonathan’s attraction to the young photographer that has been assigned to photograph him during his time in Stockholm. We hear that Joseph has had numerous affairs during their marriage.
Director Runge uses flashbacks to take us to 1958 when Joseph, played by Harry Lloyd was a married professor at Smith College with an infant daughter, and Joan, played by Annie Starke was his student, and a promising writer. We see Joseph critiquing Joan’s writing and then the two of them falling in love, breaking up Joseph’s marriage. Later, Joan is disheartened when author Elaine Mozell, played by Oscar nominee Elizabeth McGovern (Ragtime, Downton Abbey) tells her that nobody will read a book written by a woman.
You can feel the tensions build throughout the film, but have to wait until the end to find out the reason(s). Themes in the film include deception, secrets, infidelity and family tension. Content concerns include a large amount of adult language, include the abuse of God’s and Jesus’ names. The film includes references to past affairs and the beginning of a marital sex scene, though nothing is seen.
The film features an Oscar worthy performance from Close as the mysterious Joan. Pryce is very good as the less than likeable Joseph. The Wife is a well-acted film with a good storyline. It is marred by the large amount of adult language, but is worth seeing for Close’s outstanding performance.