Directed by Björn Runge
Starring: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce
Rated R for language and some sexual content
1 hr. 39 min.
Glenn Close has been money on stage and screen for 40 years. She has seen her name placed in awards nominations for amazing work, only to be passed over for another actress. This year, Ms. Close is, barring a substantial upset, almost assured of Oscar glory as The Wife.
We have seen the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences reward careers of excellence with Oscars for outstanding work by actors or actresses in seemingly ordinary films. Glenn Close has been nominated for supporting actress and best actress six previous times. All brilliant performances, all deserving, all for naught. Every indication tells us that Glenn’s time is now.
In The Wife she plays Joan, wife of Joseph Castleman, a newly selected Nobel Prize winner for literature (played by an excellent Jonathan Pryce). Lost in the joy of the award’s announcement, but not for long, is Joan’s suppressed talent as a writer. The couple’s son, David (Max Irons), yearns himself to write, and fumes over having to live up to his father’s exacting standards.
Flashbacks relate how Joan went from aspiring novelist to wife. Once the veil is lifted from their story, you appreciate Close’s knack for the slow burn. The Wife, adapted by Jane Anderson from Meg Wolitzer’s novel of the same name, sometimes plays like a potboiler. I found it difficult to believe that Close, as this woman of such potential, could bury her dreams so completely, for so long, in wedded anonymity, without erupting.
This and the almost all-too-convenient ending are the only drawbacks to an otherwise well-acted, well-rendered film. Also in the cast is Christian Slater as Nathaniel Bone, a fairly aggressive scribe who wants to write a book about Joseph’s life, but hits a brick wall at every turn. Bone possesses a tidbit that could throw the Castlemans’ Nobel joy into turmoil.
That this role comes along for Close late in her career is a gift. In her every aspect, her eyes, the twitch of a muscle, the resolve in the attitude of her chin, she carries Joan Castleman through the nexus of her existence as a sensitive talent, a woman and a wife, the crossroads of love and pain. Sentiment for the Academy Award is with her because, at 71, these roles are not plentiful.
She should have won for Fatal Attraction in 1987. She lost to Cher, in one of those incredulous Hollywood occurrences. Perhaps that character was too dark and frightening for voters to handle. Up for Dangerous Liaisons the next year, her wily/comic/tragic Marquise de Merteuil lost to Jodie Foster in The Accused. Like The Wife, however, 2019 is Close’s time to shine. She’s earned it.