The Wife

Close Steals


17 August 2018| Comments Off on The Wife     by Sean Chavel


This really is the finest performance of Glenn Close’s career, and it’s likely one of the top three performances by an actress last year. The Wife is adult fare that rings of familiarity – the highly glorified writer who is something of a louse and the wife who surrenders everything about her own identity to make sure the man of the house remains esteemed. The principles take on this subject matter sincerely, and what results is an adult drama that honestly pulsates.

Jonathan Pryce is perfectly not too smug but just arrogant and superficial enough as Joe Castleman, and in the opening passages he learned he has been named the new Nobel Prize winner for literary achievement. Close is Joan Castleman, a tight-lipped and carefully composed wife who works overtime to prove to others that she is not annoyed that every step her husband makes means she has to groom him for it. Does she suppress her intelligence customarily to make her husband look like the brighter one? You betcha.

Set in 1992, it is culturally assumed that the wife goes on the arm of the husband for support during the multiple days of celebration for the lauded prize in Sweden. It should go without a hitch, but resentments that had been hidden start simmering to the surface, and Close’s bitterness simmers first. Flashbacks reveal that she was a budding writer in college, too, and that Joe was her college professor. She had broken up a marriage. He had lost his job by courting a student. They had married and stayed that way for three decades. She gave up writing because it dawned at her that literary sexism pervaded the business.

In other words, there was a time when a woman could be a talented and perhaps brilliant writer, but no matter what she wrote, her work was always deemed as soft. Therefore, dismissed.

This is a mature and prudent film buoyed by robust writing (the script is by Jane Anderson, adapted a novel by Meg Wolitzer). It displays real embittered husband and wife conflicts that isn’t jacked up with grandiose bad behavior (Pryce never goes off the deep end), and the two try to keep their issues private. There is a notable third character in the film, Christian Slater as a biographer who keeps sticking his nose in their business, and has a theory about the Castlemans’. Slater is a bit too much of a contrived catalyst for what comes out between Joan and Joe later. But his scenes bring out a subtle charge in Close, and that transition allows the actress to really begin to shine.

“The Wife” has efficient if plain direction by Bjorn Runge, and I wish it could have peered into the aura of the literary world a little more pungently. Some of the other supporting characters are also one-note, the Castleman kids’ thoughts on everything are too muffled. But Close certainly along with Pryce gives this portrait of a flawed marriage an enflamed beating heart, and my heart quickened when I learned of what it really is for a wife to sacrifice everything about herself in service of a braggart.

100 Minutes. Rated R.         


Film Cousins: “One True Thing” (1998); “Away From Her” (2007); “The Words” (2012); “Footnote” (2012, Israel).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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