COM­PELLING CLOSE

Pretoria News Weekend - - FILM -

Jon Frosch LIKE A bomb tick­ing to­wards det­o­na­tion, Glenn Close com­mands the cen­tre of The Wife: still, for­mi­da­ble and im­pos­si­ble to look away from.

Play­ing the de­voted wife of a cel­e­brated nov­el­ist (Jonathan Pryce) and the keeper of his deep­est, dark­est se­cret, the ac­tress gives one of the rich­est, most riv­et­ing and com­pli­cated per­for­mances of her ca­reer. Close is so ex­tra­or­di­nary – at once charm­ing and in­scrutable, al­ter­nately warm and with­er­ing, ten­der but full of con­tained fury – that she lifts an oth­er­wise or­di­nary movie; thanks to her, the film’s slightly on-the-nose satire of the lit­er­ary world and its some­what fa­mil­iar por­trait of a prob­lem­atic mar­riage take on a gnaw­ing ur­gency.

Di­rected by Swedish film­maker Bjorn Runge (Day­break) and adapted by Jane An­der­son from Meg Wolitzer’s novel, The Wife opens in 1992. Joe and Joan Castle­man are in their Con­necti­cut home try­ing, and fail­ing, to fall asleep. The rea­son for their rest­less­ness: Joe has been tipped to win the No­bel Prize in lit­er­a­ture and they’re hop­ing for an early-morn­ing call from the com­mit­tee.

As they toss and turn, teas­ing each other and fool­ing around, the film es­tab­lishes the tick­lish, ex­as­per­ated in­ti­macy of a hap­pily long-mar­ried cou­ple.

The phone rings: Joe has won the No­bel. At a party to cel­e­brate the news, Joe’s agent in­forms the Castle­mans that a ma­jor mag­a­zine is “bump­ing a story about Bill Clin­ton” to make room for a piece on Joe. The men­tion of the Clin­ton name is hardly in­ci­den­tal.

Ra­zor-sharp, dis­ci­plined and stoic (she barely flinches at Joe’s af­fairs), Joan is above all the du­ti­ful guardian of her hus­band’s “brand” – and rem­i­nis­cent of a cer­tain pres­i­den­tial can­di­date who strug­gled to free her­self from the shack­les of her hus­band’s stature (and ego).

Close keeps you on your toes de­spite the film’s con­ven­tion­al­ity. She makes the char­ac­ter sym­pa­thetic but never saintly. When Joan fi­nally lets it rip, voic­ing a lifetime’s worth of pentup frus­tra­tion, Close adds notes of guilt and con­flict­ed­ness to her an­gry aria.

She never shies away from the idea that, in a way, this is the story of a wo­man wak­ing up to her own in­ter­nalised misog­yny; to the way she has en­abled her sub­ju­ga­tion.

Whether or not it’s too late for Joan Castle­man is some­thing the film wisely never re­veals. – The Hol­ly­wood Reporter

DE­VOTED WIFE: Glenn Close

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