tue 11/12/2018

The Wife review - Glenn Close deserves better from her latest Oscar bid | reviews, news & interviews

The Wife review - Glenn Close deserves better from her latest Oscar bid

The Wife review - Glenn Close deserves better from her latest Oscar bid

A strong cast flails in what amounts to a glorified TV movie

Writer vs writer: Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce in 'The Wife'

Writers need to write, or so goes the unimpeachable argument that underpins The Wife, which is being strongly touted as the film that may finally bring leading lady Glenn Close an Oscar in her seventh time at bat. Close is terrific, as she almost always is, but this film from Swedish director Björn Runge is in no way her match, and it would be a shame if the Academy were to honour the screen (and stage) veteran for purely sentimental reasons, having bypassed her in far-superior movies along the way. 

The source is a novel by the American writer Meg Wolitzer, but much of The Wife recalls the sort of Euro-pudding ventures one doesn't find so much anymore, complete with a phalanx of Brits on hand to play Americans (co-stars Jonathan Pryce and Max Irons, for starters) and stock footage (airplanes in flight and the like) representing a throwback to an era when Hollywood production values seemed unattainable anywhere else. That the reaction in some quarters has focused pretty squarely on Close's performance speaks volumes in itself. She's not just good in the movie; she pretty much is the movie. 

I confess to a fundamental problem with the narrative that can't be overly spelled out here for fear of giving away the propellar of a plot that cross-cuts between a Nobel prize ceremony in later life for the acclaimed novelist, Joseph Castleman (Pryce), and his early days in 1958 as academic mentor and eventual husband to Joan (Close, who is played as a Smith College undergraduate by her real-life daughter, Annie Starke, opposite a charming Harry Lloyd as the younger Joe). Suffice it to say that the story hinges on a chance remark proffered Joan's way by an admonitory Elizabeth McGovern that surely many another woman would bat back, or ignore. 

Glenn Close in 'The Wife'That Joan does neither of those things and lets resentment simmer and stew for decades until all hell breaks loose in Stockholm feels fatally contrived, a turn of events engineered to fuel a storyline that seems to be casting about for incident. In that latter category, we have Irons, looking far less sinewy than he once did, as a son at petulant odds with his sweary dad and Christian Slater, doing what he can to tone down the smarm, as a busy-body biographer who has taken to stalking Joan in the sky. 

Close's bunny-boiling screen persona of a previous age would have Joe's head on a platter; instead, Jane Anderson's screenplay depends upon sidelong glances and inheld rage to ignite a seemingly supportive marriage that can't withstand Joan's belated empowerment. Close and Pryce play well together and are given a too-rare scene of later-life coital coupling to set against the eventual fraying of the seams that sets in. That said, a sympathetic viewer can't help but will them into, say, something by Strindberg, where their skills would find material that doesn't feel quite so much like a TV-movie enlarged and exposed on the big screen. As it is, I shan't soon forget the sight of Pryce's Joe at his wit's end hurling his newly-obtained Nobel Prize into the night air. If you're driving around the Swedish capital and happen to see something unfamiliar glistening curb-side, take a second look: I'm sure Joe would like it back.

 

The storyline seems to be casting about for incident

rating

Editor Rating: 
2
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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