Movie review: “The Wife”

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The buzz around the movie “The Wife” is largely centered around Glenn Close’s strong performance. Some speculate, or joke, this could be Close’s chance at an Oscar win. Maybe the seventh time is the charm.

Yes, the seventh time.

Nominated six times for the Oscar, Glenn Close is tied with two other actresses for the most nominated actress without award. (That isn’t an actual title or category, by the way.) Close is an acclaimed and talented actress, whose accolades are too numerous to detail here.

In “The Wife,” Close deftly plays Joan Castleman. Her performance is a canvas exhibiting the challenging art of subtlety. It’s incredible how Joan embodies the word “inscrutable” so well.

The screenplay, written by Jane Anderson, is based on Meg Wolitzer’s novel of the same name. Set in 1992, the story’s arc begins with Joan’s husband, Joe (Jonathan Pryce,) receiving a call. He’s won the Nobel Prize for literature. The movie is about the trip to and the time in Stockholm, where the Nobel Prize is awarded.

At face value, this sounds like a fairly simple arc. Celebratory, even. The plot sounds interesting since most of us have no idea about the behind-the-scenes rituals and festivities for the Nobel Prize. (As Emily Yoshida noted for Vulture, it’s kind of hard to verify how much of this displayed ceremony is actually true.)

This movie isn’t its plot. It’s Joan’s anger churning beneath the surface as she continuously faces sexism. It’s Joe’s irreverance, David Castleman’s (Max Irons) anger at his father, and Castleman biographer Christian Slater (Nathaniel Bone) doggedly undoing the Castleman family’s knotted up history.

Since this is a college publication, it’s worth mentioning this film provides a distinctly different perspective to a younger college student. “The Wife” is about an old married couple whose relationship isn’t as idyllic as we’d all hope it to be. This is a marriage brimming with longstanding feelings, thoughts and problems. At times nauseating, at times eye-opening, the Castleman relationship is a unique character study.

With a beautiful music score by Jocelyn Pook, “The Wife” is a cerebral, painstaking portrait of marriage, artistry and sacrifice.

21 recommended
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