The Wife (15A)
Glenn Close has been labouring away in the Hollywood vineyard for many moons now without too much to show for it. She’s been a bridesmaid at the annual Oscar ceremonies so often, ‘Close’ isn’t just her surname – it’s more like a career description.
Some poor editorial decisions haven’t helped. In Fatal Attraction, for instance, she was originally cast as the spurned lover of Michael Douglas, which would have given her the opportunity to work up some deep emotions, but audiences yawned at the test shows, which caused the film’s director, Adrian Lyne, to declare: “I know how to save the movie – we’ll make her into a monster!” The rest is history – or rather, ‘herstory’. Goodbye spurned lover, hello vampiress.
Pundits are saying her Oscar luck is going to change with this latest offering and I can see why. She’s excellent as the femme inspiratrice of a man who’s just won the Nobel Prize for literature.
The Wildean dictum of “be careful what you dream for” comes to the fore as the award brings to a head a welter of tensions that have been simmering in her marriage since she sacrificed her writing career for that of her husband back in the 1950s in Massachusetts. I’m normally not a fan of flashbacks but here they work fine.
In an age where it was significantly more difficult for a woman to achieve fame as a writer than it was for a man no matter how good she was, Joan Castleman (Close) has played second fiddle to her sexually unfaithful husband Joe (Jonathan Pryce) all through the years while he took the glory for her work behind the scenes.
But when they travel to Stockholm for him to collect his prize, the trip opens up a Pandora’s Box of secrets, lies and duplicities.
The manner in which Joan sheds her invisibility is the main theme of the film. It’s set off against a number of interlocking subplots involving their disgruntled son, their pregnant daughter, Joe’s heart problems and a journalistic mole (Christian Slater) who sniffs around them looking for gossip for his forthcoming biography of Joe.
It’s a fascinating ensemble piece with not a word wasted in Jane Anderson’s fantastic script and exemplary performances all round, Close particularly but also Pryce. A quality-studded offering that’s as much a portrait of a time as well as a marriage, it’s probably the best film I’ve seen so far this year.
Director Bjorn Runge resists the temptation to blacken Joe as a loudmouth charlatan when it would have been so easy to do so. Instead he portrays him as a somewhat pathetic figure who’s almost oblivious to his indiscretions and subterfuges, a man so comfortable to wear the raiment of the big time writer that he all but forgets the woman who shunted herself into the shadows to put him there all those years ago as he stretched a severely limited talent to bursting point.