The Wife

Someone hailed this as “Glenn Close best performance yet” prior to its debut at The Toronto International Film Festival. It’s not, but Close is especially good in this film about marriage and celebrity. What surprised me most about simple drama The Wife, was the secret that’s uncovered within the story, albeit in a rather retrospective eye roll manner. The performances from Close and Pryce speak to something deeper than just a long-married couple dealing with marital issues. The Wife strikes me as a film that will be unable to find a wide audience, seeing as it couldn’t find a buyer at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and didn’t secure a distributor until fall 2018. Chatter swirled about Close and her opportunity to nab another Oscar nomination, but I think she will be drowned out in another highly competitive best actress race.

Joe Castleman (Pryce) wakes his wife Joan (Close) up snacking on chocolate at 2am. He can’t sleep, and for good reason. He’s waiting on the call that could change his life, a call from the Nobel Prize committee for his years of work in fiction. The call comes, they both listen on separate phones, later jump up and down on the bed like children. The next days they entertain friends, reporters, and celebrations before heading off to Stockholm to accept the prize. On the flight is nagging local reporter and would be biographer (Slater) who later reveals that he knows the truth behind Joan and Joe’s partnership. Joan hears what he has to say and dismisses his claims. The events at Stockholm will change the Castleman family forever as dark secrets are finally aired in the worst of circumstances.

The Wife strikes me as a film that will be unable to find a wide audience and likely landing in the VOD market.

The flashback sequences add more depth about the lives we are watching. The suspense is downplayed, allowing the script to focus on the two individuals. Close delivers one of her calm and slow to anger performances. Her character admits to Slater’s that she is shy when it comes to the public eye, but has no problem putting him in his place during a feisty conversation over drinks. The more we learn about Joe, the less we like. Much of Pryce’s part of the film is spent flirting with a beautiful young photographer. We come to realize this is a story about gender equality during a time where men were in charge of who became a successful author and who wouldn’t. One of the film’s weakest elements is Max Irons who plays David the son. The casting is off, Irons is far taller than both Pryce and Close and seems far too young compared to their age.

In the film’s emotional climax that occurs in a hotel room, Close finally gets “that scene” that producers and Orchard the production house, hope qualify Close for best actress consideration. The Wife feels so small, nearly every scene is an interior shot, in a room, in a hotel, and not very cinematic. The Wife will play well for mature audiences and provide lots of marital discussion. Sadly, I don’t think this will be Close’s year to break into awards season.

Final Thought

Close delivers a simmering, slow build performance in a confined marital drama.


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