Cast: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Christian Slater, Max Irons
Director: Bjorn Runge
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: After nearly forty years of marriage, JOAN and JOE CASTLEMAN (Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce) are complements. Where Joe is casual, Joan is elegant. Where Joe is vain, Joan is self-effacing. And where Joe enjoys his very public role as Great American Novelist, Joan pours her considerable intellect, grace, charm, and diplomacy into the private role of Great Man’s Wife. Joe is about to be awarded the Nobel Prize for his acclaimed and prolific body of work. Joe’s literary star has blazed since he and Joan first met in the late 1950. THE WIFE interweaves the story of the couple’s youthful passion and ambition with a portrait of a marriage, thirty-plus years later–a lifetime’s shared compromises, secrets, betrayals, and mutual love.
After six previous nominations for either Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress, this might be the year where Glenn Close finally ends her losing streak. This is the type of movie that the Academy traditionally loves, and all Close had to do was show up and give the performance everyone was expecting out of her. The tell-tale sign of a talented actor or actress is if a movie would be significantly worse off without that person being involved in the film. The Wife is a perfect example of this theory, as I do not believe this would have been as good as it was if Close was not selected as the lead actress. Close takes a very basic story and elevates it to something that stands out when compared to other films within the genre.
The story follows Joan (Close), a woman whose husband Joe (Pryce) has recently been selected to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature after a long career of writing books that have shaped culture for years to come. As the two of them venture over to Sweden to receive the prize, details about their relationship emerge and true feelings are exposed for quite possibly the first time in their marriage. While Close is obviously the standout of the movie, credit should still be given to Pryce for being able to keep up with Close. While his scenes do not have the same emotional weight that Close’s do, he was able to provide a performance that served as an interesting foil for Close’s character and showed us how these people handled their pain in their own personal ways. Close on the other hand, shows us why she has amassed such a successful career. Whether her scenes have biting sarcasm, emotional truth, or ripened vulnerability, Close’s performance feels all too real for someone in Joan’s position and one that almost all of us can empathize with. The film is incredibly successful in the way it portrays the burden that this relationship has on each of these people and shows us the consequences with how they handle this stress. This very easily could have been a film where Joan is the flawless heroine while Joe is the narcissistic, manipulative husband, but the story leaves the characters as more morally ambiguous and complex, leaving us with a desire to learn more about them as time goes on. The one area I wish the film had developed more was the ending. Right before the conclusion, we get a very strong climax which includes Close’s, “Oscar scene,” where we see the outcome of Joan and Joe’s decisions over the course of their marriage. After this intensely brutal scene, the film just sort of ends and we do not get the satisfaction of a true conclusion. Had the film built on its climax and showed us that the consequences were real, then honestly we could have had a very special movie from start to finish. While this is a relatively minor complaint, it is enough of an issue to detract from the film and make it feel incomplete compared to the rest of the movie which strong up to this point. I am not sure how the book this movie is based on ends, but I do not believe it provides the proper type of closure that the audience deserved.
Overall, Close is the absolute story of the movie, but the story is a pretty standard drama that will probably be loved more by critics than it will be by general audiences. Had Close or Pryce not been included in the cast, I firmly believe this film would not be as good as it was. Close’s ethos and ability to connect to people in her situation are a testament to how important your lead actress is if you want a film to reach that next level of quality, and Close helps promote The Wife to a well-above-average film.
Overall Score: 8/10