Movie Review: The Wife

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It’s award season, for the film industry, a fact that brings me great joy. And the movie The Wife is definitely a contender in the Best Actress category for the upcoming Oscars. In what could be foreshadowing, Glenn Close recently won a Golden Globe for the meaty role.

After listening to her moving acceptance speech during the Globes, I jotted the film down on my “must watch” list. Just a few days later, I noticed The Wife posted on Bookhouse Cinema’s Facebook page, as an upcoming release. I so love this indie theater in Joplin! My mother and I caught an evening showing last night, after a delicious vegan dinner served in the Bookhouse Cinema pub.

Movie Review The Wife

The Wife Cast

This drama stars Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Max Irons, Annie Starke, Christian Slater, Harry Lloyd and Alix Wilton Regan. Directed by Bjorn Runge, The Wife is based on the novel of the same name, by Meg Wolitzer. The film carries an R rating, for language and some sexual content, and has a run time of 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Movie Review The Wife

Glenn Close and her daughter, Annie Starke, who plays the younger Joan in the film.

Behind Every Great Man there is a Greater Woman

The movie’s tagline captures the essence of this intriguing and very watchable movie. Joan Castleman (Close) and Joe Castleman (Pryce) have been married for 40 years. Their grown children, David (Irons) and Susannah (Regan) live nearby. Susannah is pregnant with the first grandchild in the family, while David is finding his voice as a writer.

The Castlemans seem to complement each other well. Joe is outgoing and social, while Joan lives more privately, calling herself shy. A brilliant writer, with a long list of best selling and well received novels, Joe shines, while Joan, the steadfast and quiet presence in his life, encourages him.

Joe receives the prestigious Nobel Prize for literature, necessitating a trip to Stockholm to receive the honor. Joan and David accompany Joe. David appears to be struggling in life, as he seeks his father’s approval for the short story he labors over.

On board the international flight, the Castlemans are boldly approached by Nathaniel Bone (Slater), who desperately wants to write Joe’s biography. Annoyed Joe rebuffs him and refuses to give permission for such a project. The soother, as always, Joan sends Nathaniel back to his seat on the plane, and chides Joe for being rude.

In Stockholm, a whirlwind schedule keeps Joe busy with photographers, interviewers and rehearsals for the ceremony. Joan is free to attend events with her husband, or strike out on her own. She meets Nathaniel for a drink, and quickly learns that the would be biographer questions aspects of Joe’s life. Joan quells the young writer with a look, and a strong verbal warning.

Movie Review The Wife

Flashbacks

As the movie progresses, the story unfolds in a series of current time events and the past, captured in flashbacks. Young Joan (Starke) is a student at Smith College, in 1958. She grows increasingly enamored with her college professor, Joe Castleman (Lloyd). Joan is a talented writer and the professor pushes her to go deeper with her characters. He sees great potential in Joan’s stories.

And yet, back in the present time, in Stockholm, Joe introduces his wife as a non-writer. He basks in the attention well wishers bestow on him, and flirts with the beautiful photographer assigned to him. Joan grows increasingly silent and constrained, with occasional flashes of compassion for the people around her.

In the 1960s Joan continues to improve her writing skills. She is discouraged, however, when she meets a female author, who tells Joan not to become a writer. When Joan questions her, the older woman explains that men rule the publishing world, and no one reads books written by women.

Looking at the present time, through the lenses of the past, Joan appears less serene and more repressed, less content and more resigned. As Joe prepares to receive his award, and recognition for his achievements, Joan seems to near a breaking point, where her carefully ordered world might spin out of her control.

Movie Review The Wife

Young Castlemans

Movie Review The Wife

Older Castlemans

My Thoughts About The Wife

This is a brilliant movie that captivated me right away. I don’t want to give out spoilers. However, I can discuss themes, and The Wife has many.

Major themes include family roles, and the dynamics of a relationship where one person appears to overshadow the other. Often there can be an element present, of taking the supporting partner for granted. Another theme explored is the relationship between father and son, and mother and son. David longs for his father’s approval and wants the early writing success that Joe garnered. Joan encourages her son. Joe pushes him, much as he did Joan when she was younger.

Other themes include finding a voice, and losing one…repression of true desires…and living not out of one’s gifts but in a state of holding space, which begins to fracture the soul. Joe and Joan made decisions early in their lives that affected their mature years. They responded very differently to the growing strain between them and in their own hearts. Joe sought distractions and Joan….well Joan deeply repressed what she most wanted.

Oscar Contender

Glenn Close delivers a phenomenal performance in the complex role of Joan Castleman. I literally held my breath often, watching her. As a woman who learned to bury her emotions, and step back so her husband could occupy the limelight, she is riveting. The carefully composed, blank face, devoid of emotion, belies the turmoil roiling just beneath the surface. Several times I thought she’d crack, allowing repressed feelings to spew and devastate all in her path. And yet, back under iron control she’d go. Ultimately…who she really is can no longer be contained.

It is a scene worth watching. And, this is a role worth rewarding. Watch for Glenn Close to pick up a Best Actress Academy Award nomination next week, for her work in The Wife. I fully expect her to take the Oscar home.

Movie Review The Wife

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