"Thought Provoking and Outstanding"
"Don’t paint me as a victim" Glenn Close says during the middle of her greatest performance. "I am much more interesting than that." Yes, you are Glenn Close. Yes, you are.
The Wife follows Glenn Close’s character, Joan Castleman as she accompanies her husband Joe (Jonathan Pryce) to Stockholm as he’s to receive The Nobel Prize in literature. During the course of their stay, buttons are pushed, secrets are revealed, and breaking points explode. Joan is a victim but she’s not a stereotypical victim. She’s not the little wife trapped in a loveless marriage. She’s a strong woman who began her doom by tolerating what she felt she could at the time.
The Wife is very thought provoking. The theme of adultery and what it means to "cheat" is at the core of this film. It’s so easy to say oh I’d never do that, or I’d never tolerate that kind of behavior, I’d just leave him. It’s so much easier said than done when you fall in love and build a life and a family with someone. You can lose control. You can become entangled in a fog that sometimes only lifts when it’s too late.
Glenn Close has always been an artist who is able to terrify audiences with her looks of anger rather than her acts of it. The Wife is the best performance of her career because while the themes of The Wife have been long approached by filmmakers, it hasn't really been exposed in the way in which Close exposes the circumstances of her character. It is like she’s exposing lava inside a volcano that hasn't erupted for centuries.
The film also approaches the themes of anger and complicity accurately and perfectly and the film is better because of it. Joan is angry at Joe but she’s also angry at herself. You know the saying, man may have discovered fire, but women discovered how to play with it. Joan has never been able to play with fire, she always does the right thing for everyone else. The appearance of a happy, normal successful family is important to her to keep up. Upon her arrival in Stockholm, she slowly approaches the water she’s avoided drinking her whole life. One sip is all it takes to pour gasoline on her long enduring patience and set it on fire.
Pryce’s performance is outstanding because while the big betrayal is not entirely his fault, it’s mostly his fault and his inability to confront the reality of what he’s done must have been so hard to portray, as no one wants to be around someone like that. Annie Starke (Close’s daughter) and Harry Lloyd play the younger Joan and Joe. Their talent pales in comparison to Close and Pryce. Yet, they are as believable as they need to be in order to convince audiences the couple they are watching was once them. Max Irons performance as Joan and Joe’s son is a declaration of accuracy to those seeking the approval of fathers who never give it to them. He chases after his father's approval and never gets it. Christian Slater’s performance as a journalist hoping to expose Joan and Joe's secret provides the film’s comic relief. He’s experienced none of the family drama and yet, he seems so tired of it. His intentions are for his benefit. He is a manipulator and very selfish. Yet, there’s something very human about him and Slater is able to show it in a very clever manner. Elizabeth McGovern’s performance lasts for a couple of minutes and yet, she terrifyingly makes everything crystal clear to Annie Starkes young Joan. She has an elegant grit to her that I find very enticing. I for one wouldn't mind seeing her continue to use it in bigger film roles.
Overall, The Wife is a 100-minute wind that will blow Glenn Close to the Oscar she’s been deserving her whole career.