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article imageReview: ‘The Wife’ will not play second-fiddle to anyone ever again Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Sep 23, 2018 in Entertainment
‘The Wife’ is the story of a frustrated spouse who finally snaps under the weight of her husband receiving the ultimate recognition, played perfectly by Glenn Close.
“Behind every successful man, there is a woman.” This popular saying may sound complimentary, but it actually speaks to the systemic oppression that relegated an entire gender to the background. It suggests women are best suited in a supportive role that encourages a man's career rather than embark on one of her own. It's not surprising the saying was popularized more than half a century ago, when it was expected a woman's primary life goals were marriage and motherhood regardless of what skills or potential she might possess; and those who went against the grain would forever be considered "uncouth." It is this environment that informs the story of The Wife.
Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce) is a renowned fiction writer who’s made the shortlist for the Nobel Prize in Literature and is waiting to learn the results. An early morning phone call following a restless night delivers the happy news and after an impromptu celebration, Joe and his family fly to Sweden for the ceremony. His wife, Joan (Glenn Close), is the picture-perfect spouse, ensuring her husband always has anything he may need, including the spotlight all to himself. They’re also accompanied by their son (Max Irons), who is an aspiring writer seeking his father’s approval, and a biographer (Christian Slater) who wants to write Joe’s story. But as they go through the motions of socializing and rehearsals, the occasion turns acrimonious.
Literally jumping on the bed with joy, Joe appears years younger after the announcement. He beams with pride, and basks in the congratulations of friends and strangers… particularly young women. In the meantime, Joan is tasked with fielding his phone calls, ensuring he sticks to the itinerary and trying to keep their son from feeling insignificant in his wake. Unfortunately, Joe has a way of nonchalantly belittling those closest to him and Joan is running out of patience. On top of all this, the biographer is hinting at a revelation that will make him a bestseller while ruining Joe’s legacy.
The resentment that starts to boil between Joe and Joan has been simmering for some time, but never had a catalyst until now. As Joan remembers her youth, which included a creative writing class with Joe, it becomes clear she had potential as a writer — a gift which lured Joe away from his first wife and was squandered as an assistant at a publishing house before she became a full-time mother. However, it’s also during this time that Joan learns how undervalued female authors are and that it’s nearly impossible to turn talent into a career without a penis.
This movie isn’t about guessing their deep, dark secrets, but seeing the toll they have on their relationships with each other and their now-adult children. Close turns in an impeccably nuanced performance as Joan is quietly — and gradually more perceptibly — conflicted; the award is the culmination of the many sacrifices made throughout their marriage for Joe’s success, but it’s also the peak of decades of being considered second. Pryce, in the meantime, gets to play the clueless husband who revels in his accolades and cannot see the negative impact it’s having on his family. Slater also reprises the role of a self-assured profiler last seen nearly 25 years ago in Interview with a Vampire, though with more ambition, less of a death wish and the same amount of salaciousness.
Director: Björn Runge
Starring: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce and Christian Slater
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