THE WIFE – Review by Susan Granger
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