An award-worthy movie outing for Glenn Close and a binge watch to stay home for.
Six nominations and yet to get a win – it defies belief that a cinematic CV as impressive as the one Glenn Close (Fatal Attraction/The Big Chill) has amassed over her illustrious career is still without an Oscar. Let’s hope she tempts the Academy yet again with her outing in The Wife, because she most certainly deserves to.
Game of Thrones fans can play “first person to spot High Sparrow” and then collectively yell, “By crikey is that the dodgy brother of Mother of Dragons?!” as British actors Jonathan Pryce and Harry Lloyd play the same man here. But make no mistake, this is The Wife, and this film belongs to Glenn Close.
Novelist of note Meg Wolitzer penned the book the film is based on and brings a potent female voice to a story published in 2003 but very much set in the early 1990s. And with Close the master and commander from go to whoa here, that voice is resonant, powerful and unforgettable.
She plays Joan Castleman, the wife of an acclaimed American author, Joe Castleman – so acclaimed he is about to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. We meet them the day they find out about his momentous achievement, the story following them to Stockholm for the award ceremony, their son David in tow.
Joe is treated like royalty and in return he is both magnanimous and serenely arrogant in the same breath. It’s clear he has lived for this moment and he’s going to enjoy it. As the family navigates all their very public Nobel duties, in private the wheels are slowly coming off. Biographer Nathaniel Bone (Christian Slater) has followed them to Stockholm, sniffing out a far bigger story than the Castlemans could ever imagine, and he plants seeds in Joan’s mind not even she can ignore.
A seemingly simple premise, it’s a story with an immediate nourishing depth, kindred seas rich in dark and surging undercurrents of jealousy, inadequacy, rage and deception. The reveals are measured and deliberate, each note delivered with intent, as Joan’s very public life as the dutiful wife is peeled back before our eyes, nothing as we might expect.
As Joe, Pryce is a worthy foil for Close. There is an extraordinary intimacy and vulnerability to their marriage and both performers deliver on the promise of that relationship elegantly and hauntingly. Adding fuel to the simmering fire, Joe’s frayed and fractious encounters with his son David (Max Irons), himself a budding writer, is another bomb waiting to go off.
If you like your stories told sparingly, the small moments mined for maximum impact as much as the big ones, then The Wife will more than fit the bill. Glenn Close is magnificent and she has a big screen vehicle here which perfectly showcases that. If you’re a fan, you’d be mad to miss it.
The Wife Starring Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce and Christian Slater. Directed by Björn Runge.