I just finished watching movie THE WIFE. Glenn Close who played the main personage there won the Golden Globe award as the best actress. I somehow missed this movie when it appeared on our cinemas, so now I bought it watched only now. And that is all because of Glenn Close. It was interesting to see the performance worth the Golden Globe.
After a five-year break, during which Swedish director Björn Runge focused on theater and writing (including his first novel), at the end of 2017, he started filming of his new band THE WIFE. The film was created by the bestseller of the same name of American writer Meg Wolitzer.
An history of white lies, silent partners and a little of love supported by outstanding Gleen Close as a silent muse; the hidden, tolerant talent of a writer. The drama grows like a downhill snowball, with a bittersweet final act.
Björn Runge managed to make a very intimate film, which is illuminated by a soft, yellowish light, giving rise to very special feelings about the notorious Scandinavian comfort, regularity, and naturalness of being, focusing on the inside.
Jane Anderson, Oscar's winner, wrote the script for THE WIFE. In the center of the film, we see a couple of spouses that find themselves moving away from each other on their journey to the Nobel Prize-giving ceremony in Stockholm.
The Short Story Of The Movie
For forty years, Joan by her own will sacrificed her author's ambitions and dreams about own book for the sake of her Joe, her husband. She did everything to consolidate his brilliant career as a writer. Once in the life of Joe comes a very important moment - he should be awarded the Nobel Prize.
Early in the morning in the house of an elderly couple, the telephone call they were waiting for is heard. At the other end of the call, a polite person with a slight accent reports that this year the writer Joe Castleman was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. The next second he and his wife Joan as the children jump on the bed.
Now they have to go to Stockholm for the ceremony where Joseph is waiting for a crowd of journalists, a personal driver, and a personal photographer, and Joan - memories of a life lived, her bitter reflections on how their common “we” with time turned into “I”, the very difficult inner choice that she has done between truth and love.
Carefully following the plot, the viewer learns that in the creative cradle the writer-laureate was not alone. His wife during all the years of marriage was his literary servant, and the Nobel Prize, in fact, should belong to her.
Drama THE WIFE - Photo credit: medium.com
The Content Of The Movie
When you see Glenn Close on the screen, you understand: one should not wait for good. The actress, who thundered in Fatal Attraction and Dangerous Ties, has such a look, such a smile, that any movie becomes significant. The new film THE WIFE directed by Bjorn Runge with the participation of Glenn Close begins with the bed scenes of the elderly couple. He is Mr. Castleman (Jonathan Pryce), a famous writer, whose books are printed throughout the world. She is Joan, just a wife (Glenn Close).
THE WIFE film immediately sets the bar high in the creative world, introducing the viewer to the world where the main character finds out that he won the Nobel Prize in literature. This film - theatrical drama with not the most original plot - is largely based on the play of Glenn Close.
The intrigue, if it can be called such, is born in the first half of the film, especially since the story is as old as the world. The recent films about the writers' wives, which in fact turn out to be not just muses, but hands who created all the great works of their spouses, you can count at least two more. Last year, the French drama
"He She I" was shown, and Colette with Keira Knightley in a similar role. It is not surprising, because this would seem to be the ideal plot of the era of the new gender revolution.
However, THE WIFE is far from a feminist hymn. Even despite its involuntary relevance in the light of the recent scandal with the Nobel Prize for literature. Even despite the fact that in all its length - both in flashbacks and in real time - the author draws attention to the position of a woman in society, which, judging by the story of the film, is not very changed over half a century.
Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce in THE WIFE - Photo credit: imdb.com
Working in the editorial office, the young Joan watched as the bosses, while acknowledging the talent of the author, put on the shelf another novel of the woman-writer. Arriving in Stockholm, listening to her own spouse playfully throws "No, my wife does not write," shaking hands with other Nobel laureates. Which, in turn, praise their own wives, who have achieved no less impressive results, but in their eyes, Joan sees what is clear to her alone.
She is almost ready to tell to the obsessive pursuer Nathaniel Bone (Christian Slater), a writer obsessed with becoming a biographer of Castleman and suspecting that the true genius in the family is not the one who is handed the Nobel Prize. The fact that she hid all her life from the children, including from the son David, a novice writer waiting for his father's professional approval, and the mother’s approval to him is nothing more than a manifestation of parental love. It seems to be about to burst out.
But it remains a family affair - when the cup of patience is overflowing, she will tell Joseph everything that has become painful, will scream, that finally leaves him. But even here, the man will overtake her, again taking all the laurels for himself - she will remain, as before, with dignity to keep the family hearth, family secrets and, possibly, create a new king.
To the finale, bitterness and regret are replaced by pride and dignity, which are dictated not only and not so much by ineradicable inequality, but by love.
THE WIFE - essentially, it is a guide on how to kill love in marriage. In this case, do not feel sorry for the heroes: each of them once made his choice consciously, and it's stupidly to look for the guilty.
THE WIFE - Golden Globe award film- Photo credit: theaceblackblog.com
The Roles Of The Movie
Behind the shoulders of the personages - a big life together; the spouses know everything about each other, and they do not need to talk - they understand each other perfectly well. The wife takes care of the great husband as a child - makes sure that he does not eat sweets, takes the pill in time, picks up his coat thrown in the air.
She quietly survives his anger and egoism, straining only when the spouse does not show interest in the first writing creations of their common son.
Joe Castleman is really an unsympathetic asshole, however, not without charm. Sometimes he even jokes in his old years with the same trick — a confession scrawled on a nut — he lures young beauties. On Joan's face in these situations - an ironic smile. Is it love? No, it's a barely constrained, silent rage.
The fact is that Joan wrote all these brilliant books that glorified her husband. She wrote under his name, Castleman, and he reaped all the laurels, shinning in the glory, but not even bothered to remember the names of the characters derived in this masterpiece literature.
Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce in THE WIFE - Photo credit: imdb.com
Why did she do it? Because once she was madly in love with a young, capable, married professor who taught her writing craft. Because she took him out of the family. Because at first she edited his books, and then she realized that it was a waste of time, that it was better to write from scratch. Because she is an introvert and does not like to shine in public. All these years, the unspoken contract "I write - you publish under your own name" never was the subject for their conflicts and accusations.
But this is a movie, so a gun must necessarily shoot. Castleman is nominated for the Nobel Prize, and a trip to Sweden will be a test for the family.
The director manages to make a rhythm by the cold of Stockholm with the cold that settled in Joan's soul. She, who should reign here, taste all the joys of being chosen, is forced to endure flat jokes about the women-keepers of the hearths and the offers to pass the time by engaging in shopping and cosmetic procedures. And her intolerable, charming, ingenious spouse will flirt in front of everyone with a girl photographer, rehearse a Nobel speech.
Björn Runge films - THE WIFE - Photo credit: medium.com
The central conflict is between the writer, who was excited in anticipation of final recognition, and his muse, tired of the lies and her own meekness, whose desire to turn the metaphorical key to the cabinet and shake out the skeletons hidden there — is said not in words, but seen in the actress's eyes.
At the beginning of the film, Joan says that nothing is more dangerous than an offended writer. And the viewer understands: there is a limit, there is a line, having stepped over which, Castleman can lose the loyalty of his patient spouse forever.
The Technical Side Of The Movie
The impressive vintage picture surprises in this movie. Dresses, interiors, banquet tables - the artists worked for glory, paying tribute to the era of the 60s and to modern times.
The film is put neatly, but almost devoid of imagination and more like a television drama, where nothing should distract from the leading woman.
Director Runge fully realizes the creative traditions of Scandinavian drama, laid down by his famous predecessors (from Strindberg to Bergman). The film simply sparkles with the most subtle psychological details, the fabric of a dense acting game is covered with elegant embroidery of bitter dialogues. The action develops slowly at first, but at the end of the film, a real emotional and aesthetic shock awaits the audience, immersing viewers in classic catharsis.
There are no action scenes, special effects. The music perfectly fit this drama, but it is not memorable. A video montage is good.
Family Drama THE WIFE - Photo credit: imdb.com
The Collective Work Of The Movie
Jonathan Pryce and Glenn Close really are the main decoration of this film. They have a comedic and tragic gift and are able to juggle with the plot, turning it into Shakespeare's drama. Jonathan Pryce and Glenn Close are great in their roles, honest and subtle in their screen relations, depicting a middle-aged couple.
Not so often, elderly heroes like them are in the foreground, and very rarely they do not look frozen, experienced and tired of the path traveled, but alive, making mistakes, swearing like teenagers, able to be offended, fooling around, and making love.
The main revelation here, of course, Glenn Close, by the efforts of which THE WIFE does not become too academic nor stereotyped. Jonathan Pryce balances sometimes on the verge of a caricature, playing a kind of collective image of the writer. All the subtle movements of the soul and the barely noticeable change in the emotional registers are obtained by Glenn Close, who shines with full authority, demonstrating perhaps her best work in several last years.
Glenn Close in THE WIFE - Photo credit: vadecineenserie.blogspot.com
Silence, smile, politeness and intelligence, care, a tired back, tired eyes, full of pain, patience, humility, anxiety, the wish of truth, rebellion, alcohol, the inability to afford freedom. There is no such note that Glenn Close would not use in her game.
In the role of the young Joan starred daughter of Glenn Close, Annie Starke, very similar to the mother. David (Max Irons), the son of Castleman, played the son of the great Jeremy Irons, who lives in the shadow of the genius father. Young actors are superficially cute and do everything in the filming professionally, but they do not have the energy and charisma of their parents.
The rest of the actors, too, act more as a respectful environment for the main actress, and not full partners.
Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce in a family drama THE WIFE - twitter.com
On The Final Note
THE WIFE film was undoubtedly influenced by today's feminist trends. The role of women in history, her ability to realize herself in any profession, her strength of mind, and at the same time, weakness, moral failure, lack of principles of the stronger sex.
Behind every great man there's a great woman.
This phase is often repeated by the authors of biographical novels. But it looks to me, in the first place there are not gender issues, but universal questions. What is the price and what is the likely outcome of a late attempt to talk heart to heart with a loved one after almost half a century of living together? Most often, as a result of the presentation of a long list of accusations by one side, it turns out that the other one did not ask for any victims, did not want, and did not wait for them.
Of course, in such explanations is a fair share of heartlessness and deceit. But no less crafty is one who deliberately made these sacrifices, pursuing his own goals, leading his own game, repeatedly forcing himself to accustom with the inconveniences that would cause any sensible person to leave such a relationship.
In this family, there could be a break, since the failure of their relationship at any moment in time would have disastrous consequences for both participants - the loss of oneself, all signs of one’s own personality, determined through the other. To some extent, Joan was even luckier. After all, she - the wife of the writer Joe Castleman. And he is a man whose wife, in his authoritative opinion, is not able to write.
Glenn Close taking Golden Globe award for the best female role in THE WIFE, 2019 - Photo credit: twitter.com
The film leads to deep reasoning about the nature of the creative process, pushing for the thinking that such an intimate sphere as literature is the fruit of not an individual, but joint, collective efforts. And there is no paradox here.
The filmmakers talk with their viewers about how difficult it is to find oneself, to love one person all the life and not to break down, not to cross out everything through the years, when situations and questions that have been accumulated for a long time, finally burst in daylight.
Close owns this movie, from beginning to end; it's a performance of such intelligence and subtlety that only when the movie is long over do you start wondering about whether the plot holds up. - Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times
My rating: 8.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 8.4/10
Critics average: 7.7/10
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