Adapted from Meg Wolitzer’s 2003 novel, “The Wife” is a film about a marriage between a renowned author and his loyal wife.
The film is a study in character, brilliantly achieved by six-time Oscar nominated Glenn Close, who plays Joan Castleman.
The story opens in 1992, at the height of third-wave feminism, in the Castlemans’ affluent Connecticut home. Joseph Castleman, played by Jonathan Pryce, is a contender for the Nobel Prize in literature. He and his wife Joan anticipate a call from the Nobel Prize committee.
The call is received and viewers are graced with the genius that is Close, the queen of subtext on every level.
Parts of the story are established through flashbacks, the first in 1958 showed a young Joan, played by Annie Stark, Close’s daughter, as a promising creative-writing student at Smith College who falls in love with her married professor, a young Joe.
Joan rescues her talentless writer husband. She chooses to sacrifice her own name as a published writer for the benefit of an affluent, 1960s life she thought she wanted.
However, after 40 years, Joan’s hidden resentment begin to surface. Close’s fierce emotional range is intense, spoken word, or not.
Close definitely deserves Oscar recognition for her role, if for subtext alone.
One of my favorite scenes is between Joan and a biographer with an agenda, Nathaniel Bone, a fun to watch Christian Slater. In Stockholm, he convinces her to meet him for a drink in hopes to gain information for a biography about Joe Castleman. Is he flirting with her? Is she taking the bait? Either way, the two actors nail it.
The film carries with it a bit of suspense and the ending may come as a subtle surprise.
“The Wife” reminds us that sacrifice doesn’t always suffice.
Glenn Close reminds us that her Oscar-winning worthiness is past due.