Review: The Wife

Glenn Close in The Wife

I finally got around to seeing The Wife, months after everyone else. After I saw it I was not entirely happy that I had.

Here’s my issue with The Wife. Glenn Close is marvelous in her part, but her part is as the wife of a famous man. She’s in the background, meaningless to the wider world. He always thanks her when accepting an award, but she’s just that – someone he thanks when receiving an award. A name quickly forgotten.

That made me unhappy for her.

Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce in The Wife

Glenn Close is Joan Castleman. Jonathan Pryce plays Joe Castleman. Joan and Joe. Girl and boy. Girl and boy in a patriarchal world.

We open in 1992, when Joe hears the news that he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. We get the story of their marriage in flashbacks as the couple head for Sweden to collect the award.

They met in 1958, when Joe was a married college teacher with a child and Joan was his writing student. The younger couple were played by Harry Lloyd and Annie Starke. She knew from the start that he was a man who would cheat on his wife, because he did it with her. She married him anyway.

Elizabeth McGovern played a bitter woman writer who told Joan early on that a woman could never succeed in writing because men ran the world. Joan believed her. In Joan’s world, a man had worth, value, because he was a man. Nothing else mattered.

Almost forty years go by. They have two grown children: David (Max Irons) and Susannah (Alix Wilton Regan). David wants to be a writer like his dad. He goes with them to Sweden.

A very annoying fellow named Nathaniel (Christian Slater) wants to write Joe’s biography. He trails after them in Sweden.

Big things happen while Joan and Joe are in Sweden. I’m trying very hard not to tell you what they were. Many reviewers (mostly male, I suspect) have talked about this story without betraying spoilers or any anger over the situation. It’s okay, I’m holding my tongue.

The Wife was based on the novel by Meg Wolitzer with a screenplay by Jane Anderson. Björn Runge directed. The film is available from iTunes, Amazon Video and several other sources.

I’m actually glad I watched this film, because Glenn Close killed in her part and I’m a Glenn Close fangirl. However, the patriarchy sucks.

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