With all of the current talk about the need for women to be more recognized in relation to men, “The Wife,” directed by Björn Runge, is certainly timely even though set in 1992. Glenn Close is hauntingly excellent in her portrayal of Joan, the wife of author Joe Castleman, portrayed with conceit and obliviousness toward her feelings by Jonathan Pryce. Joe is being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in recognition of his writing and Joan, whose own talent at writing has never been recognized, accompanies him to Stockholm for the ceremony.
The screenplay by Jane Anderson is based on Meg Wolitzer’s novel, and the adaptation gains from the performances of Close and Pryce. Close is particularly fascinating to watch as she plays a woman seething with resentment, but trying to keep it under control as the good wife. Although she is in love with her husband, there is a secret in their relationship that steadily drives her emotions to a breaking point.
In Stockholm all is set for the grand celebration and acceptance that showers honor upon Joe, who revels in being the award recipient. Joan’s duty is to be the loyal wife and bask in her husband’s celebrity.
The bubble is jabbed by the presence of Christian Slater as conniving journalist Nathaniel, who wants to write a biography of Joe. He senses a juicy situation and pressures Joan for information, but she tries to protect herself and her husband. Meanwhile Joe has the problem of a son, David (Max Irons), who resents his father’s control.
One can sense by the buildup and the performances that an explosion is coming, and we can venture a guess as to the back story. When the dam finally bursts, there is an emotional outpouring in which the past surfaces. How will it be resolved?
Both Close and Pryce do some of their best work here. Each contributes mightily to the film’s impact. Close in particular excels, given how much she must show with expression and demeanor until Joan finds the words and courage to state her long-suppressed case. A Sony Pictures Classics release. Reviewed August 17, 2018.