DIRECTOR: Bjorn Runge (daybreak, mouth to mouth, happy end)
starring glenn close, jonathan pryce, christian slater, and max irons
REVIEWER: purdie jenkins
Joe enjoys his very public role as the great American novelist, while Joan pours her considerable intellect, grace, charm and diplomacy into the private role of a great man's wife. As Joe is about to be awarded the Nobel Prize for his acclaimed and prolific body of work, Joan starts to think about the shared compromises, secrets and betrayals.
Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce) is being awarded a Noble prize for his literary prowess and travels to Sweden with his wife Joan (Glenn Close). The Wife takes place over the few days leading up to the cermony and is an intimate look at Joe and Joan’s relationship in the public eye and behind closed doors (or private limo rides). The Castleman’s are by no means the perfect couple, their relationship is strained by Joe’s sexual indiscretions and brashenss. But in the spotlight they play the part of a happy couple, Joan reminds Joe to be diplomatic when they are approached by the writer who wants to write Joe’s biography on the flight to Sweden. The tension in their relationship is one that has existed for quite some time.
While the film is set in the 1990s, it flashes back to the early days of Joe and Joan’s relationship in the late 1950/1960s, rather than an intrusion to the story, the flashbacks set the way the Castleman relationship works. It’s built from decades of affection, care and intimacy as well the boiling tension which is captured in the lead up to the Noble Prize award cermony.
Close is terrific in this role, and her performance is matched by Pryce, who plays Joe as a charismatic writer. However the minor characters feel shallow and a bit one-dimensional. The son who only craves his father’s approval, begging him for feedback on his writing; as well as the writer who desperately wants to write Joe’s biography whose just probing for the juicy story. These characters help egg the developments further but other than that they don’t really come into their own.
The ending deserves more, something different to give a noteworthy conclusion to a film so tightly wrapped in emotion and tension. You are pained watching Joan and her experiences of womanhood in a professional, male-dominated world (a theme so prominant to both the 1960s and 1990s settings), while the ending was satisfying, I felt like it was easy.
The Wife is a thorougly enjoyable intimate look at what should be the highlight of Joe Castleman’s literary career.
Glenn Close is stunning in this titular role; she is a sophisticated force to be reckoned with. As Joe says “she doesn’t write, thank god” but boy can she act.