Celebrating the Women Behind THE WIFE — Jeanne Wolf reports (Exclusive)
The Wife is coming home — which means, of course, that the award-winning film is releasing on home video, making it more readily available to the wider range of viewers who should see it. It’s a film that celebrates the strength of its central female character, and the DVD release is a good time to celebrate the women who brought the compelling story to the big screen.
But to begin at the beginning: I had heard about The Wife before its U.S. theatrical release from journalists who saw it at the Cannes Film Festival. They were careful not to reveal the secrets of the plot but raved about the performances, especially that of Glenn Close in the title role. The raves are well deserved. Glenn Close will grip you and confuse you. You will not see this film without being ruffled in the best ways that films can disturb us. I wanted to get up and slap Jonathan Pryce who plays her husband (that’s actually a compliment to his acting,by the way) several times even before I was shocked by the film’s ending. This is a powerful story that will stay with you.
The story stayed with me, too, as the movie opened and talk of awards started right away, including immediate Oscar buzz. When awards season got underway, I was in the press room for Glenn’s Golden Globe win and her Critics Choice win and her SAG awards win. When she and I got to talk personally, I could feel her deep emotion and pride about receiving those awards and her genuine emotion about all the standing ovations she was receiving. (Never forget, that icons are people too, longing to be appreciated and for their work to be admired.)
So, of course, I wanted to be at the small press lunch given to celebrate the home video release of The Wife.. Glenn’sschedule demanded that she be elsewhere, but I got to meet Meg Wolitzer, the author of the eponymous novel, and screenwriter Jane Anderson and actress Annie Stark who is Glenn’s real life daughter and who brilliantly plays the younger Glenn in this film.
They are the women of The Wife, and they are all happy that everyone can now enjoy on home video the anguish and triumph of the unique woman who is at the center of the compelling story.
Yes, let’s get to the story: It takes place over thirty years of a marriage — with secrets. All couples have secrets – but on the way to collect her husband’s Nobel Prize for Literature – the long-standing tensions in their relationship reach the boiling point for Joan (Glenn Close). Little bu little, the secrets are revealed and, no spoilers here, the drama ends in a gripping denouement.
At the luncheon, Meg Wolitzer, Jane Anderson and Annie Stark talked with wisdom and humor about the difficulty of getting the movie made. They discussed their pride in their shared work and their wonder of how Glenn made the complex character of Joan come so vividly alive on the screen.
It’s tricky to reveal all of their comments because it’s really better to see the movie before you hear the history of making it.
But, a few quotes might give you some extra insight about the movie and the fabulous women who are celebrating and being celebrated:
JANE ANDERSON tried to get the movie made fourteen years ago:
“Back then, the men who ran the studios, you know, after I wrote the script and we were trying to get it made, they basically said to me, ‘We don’t want to do a film starring a woman, and we’ll never get a male actor to play it. I had one agent say to me, if I gave this to my male client, he would never forgive me.’ Meg’s novel is a first-person pissed-off woman, and it’s such a delicious read.”
MEG WOLITZER invented the character of Joan, but still felt her truth:
“I think for me as a novelist, I’m aware that we hold all these different selves inside of us. It’s like those Russian nesting egg dolls We are writing about marriage here, but we’re also looking at the marriage in relation to what was it like for women then. I love creating characters, but I know that there have been women like this who have been invisible, who’ve kept themselves back because of the culture or something in themselves.”
ANNIE STARK studied her mother’s mannerisms in a way she’d never done before:
“Nervous to do this, of course. But honestly, it was a project that made me just think about the incredible women that I have the honor of saying that I’m related to, and for this to be, at least for me, an homage to who they were. I think I would’ve been an absolute idiot to pass that up, and I’m so glad that I didn’t. It was also just, in terms of work experience, one of the most extraordinary things. It’s something that I will always hold very dear to my heart, and yeah, so it was terrifying, but honestly, the good outweighed the scary. I am so proud of my mother and so touched that she is proud of me.”
The Wife is now available on digital, and on Blu-ray and DVD. And, awards buzz is still going strong.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Wife is The Alliance of Women Film Journalists’ Movie of the Week for August 17. 2018