THE WIFE – Review by Susan Granger

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Six-time Academy Award nominee Glenn Close opens the Oscar race with a stunning portrayal of a long-suffering woman who’s fed up with standing in her celebrated husband’s shadow.

Her symbiotic story begins with the Castlemans in bed. Joan (Glenn Close) and her husband Joe (Jonathan Pryce) are eagerly awaiting an early morning phone call that confirms he’s won the 1992 Nobel Prize for Literature.

En route to the ceremony in Sweden, Joan recalls (in flashbacks) their road from Smith College to Stockholm.

In the late 1950s, she was an extraordinarily promising creative writing student who had an affair with pompous, philandering English Lit Professor Joe Castleman. And it was only after they were married that Joe’s distinguished career took off.

As Joan listens with a tight-lipped smile to people extolling Joe for reinventing the nature of storytelling, you can see her inscrutable face barely reflecting perceptible pride mixed with resentful bitterness, disbelief tinged by jealousy. Glenn Close’s nuanced performance is close to miraculous in its subtlety.

When asked what she does, placid Joan enigmatically replies, “I am a kingmaker.”

Only Joe’s persistently smarmy biographer, Nathaniel Bone (Christian Slater), guesses Joan’s secret complicity in Joe’s success.

“Don’t paint me as a victim,” she warns him. “I am much more interesting than that.” Indeed. She has sublimated her own ambitions to surreptitiously further his.

Credit screenwriter Jane Anderson for adapting Meg Wolitzer’s provocative 2003 novel into a calculating drama that unfolds with compelling suspense.

Director Bjorn Runge adds to the credibility by casting Glenn Close’s real-life daughter Annie Starke as young Joan with Max Irons (Jeremy’s real-life son) as their son. Unfortunately, Harry Lloyd is not as convincing as young Joe.

FYI: Close was first Oscar-nominated as Robin Williams’ mother in “The World According to Garp” (1982). She earned other nominations for “The Big Chill” (1984), “The Natural” (1985), “Fatal Attraction” (1988), “Dangerous Liaisons” (1989) and “Albert Nobbs” (2012).

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Wife” is a self-effacing, enabling 8. Glenn Close’s 7th nomination may be the charm.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Wife is The Alliance of Women Film Journalists’ Movie of the Week for August 17. 2018

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.