By Che Zuro
Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce in "The Wife"
Having not heard much about this film, I was surprised when I saw Glenn Close win the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama, and then couldn't wait to watch it. I have loved her in just about everything I have ever seen, including this film with her new beautifully haunting character, Joan Castleman.
Based on the novel, "The Wife," by Meg Wolitzer, with screenplay by Jane Anderson, the story revolves around Joan and Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce) and their long marriage, with Joan taking care of Joe's every need. One may think perhaps this will be a film about dementia, because Joan seems to do everything for Joe - getting his meals, giving him his medicine, picking up his clothes, reminding him of this and that, but we also find out that Joan had quietly given up her life and her dreams to take care of her husband, whom she stole from another woman, his first wife. With Joe's unexpected win of a Noble Prize Award for Literature, we see them joyful, but there is some unknown emotion underneath Joan's excitement, which could possibly be a quiet giant about to burst. Maybe.
The couple takes their son, budding writer David, (Max Irons) along with them to Sweden for the awards ceremony and banquets. He seeks not only approval, but guidance, and continues to lack the support from his famous Dad. With the volatile relationship between the men, and Joan's attempt to settle everything down to normalcy, the tone is set for the story of this unhappy family.
Although Joe and Joan's relationship is very much a cliche of marriage in the early and middle part of the 20th century, the story is creative and has something that everyone could probably relate to: a loving yet dysfunctional family, alcohol abuse, dreams of creative careers, struggles, arguments, and more. With superb actors, I found myself lost in the multi-faceted emotions that they all held, showed to the audience or tried to hide. There is no wonder Glenn Close received the Best Actress award. It is much deserved.
Christian Slater, playing author Nathaniel Bone, is on the hunt to gather information for a biography about Joe Castleman, with no one giving him details regarding his speculations about the family. Watching these scenes gave some relief from the underlying stress of the entire Castleman family, giving us interesting details that may or may not be true. Bone's forcefulness about getting to the real story gives cause for more silence about any family details. This causes more dysfunction.
Directed by Björn L Runge, this film has some of the best acting this film season, in my opinion. You will find yourself constantly wondering what to expect from each character - are they telling the truth? Will they burst with anger and resentment? Will someone crash and burn? Will this be a happily ever after ending?