Career capping is the turn of phrase that comes to mind in my attempts to describe actress Glen Close’s lead performance in the riveting domestic drama The Wife.
Over the ensuing decades since she burst onto the scene with her award-nominated turn for the 1982 film The World According to Garp, Close has made many ripples over the years in many roles on both the big and small screen. When one takes into consideration her overall body of work it’s no small bit of praise to say that her work here may be some of her finest yet. If nothing else, it’s great to see an actress in her 70s still getting plum roles such as this into which she can sink her teeth. It will be a real surprise if her work isn’t recognized on some level, come awards time. Long story short, Close is pure perfection in The Wife.
World-renowned novelist Joe Castlemen (Jonathan Pryce, also turning in great work here) is all set to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature as the film opens. Joan (Close) is the dutiful wife who is and has been content to stand by her man and let him have his moment in the sun during their marriage. It’s an arrangement that seems to have worked, at least on the surface.
In the midst of all this, an eager writer (Christian Slater), seeking to get Joe to agree to let him pen the novelist’s biography, forces Joan to reconsider her role in Joe’s life. Secrets are revealed and there are many plot twists that I won’t reveal here. Let’s just say that all is not what it seems as the audience gradually finds out there’s more to Joe and Joan’s relationship than meets the eye. Amidst all of this the film seems to making some serious comparisons and contrasts on the role of the wife in today’s society compared to what it was some fifty years ago when the characters were first starting out.
The Wife, graced with sure-footed direction by Bjorn Runge, is based on a novel by Meg Wolitzer and adapted for the screen by Jane Anderson. I haven’t read the novel but I could imagine that this is a case wherein the unnecessary fat has been trimmed from the novel since the film is done in such a compact fashion. The film runs a brisk 100 minutes and must be given credit for getting its points across so succinctly.
The Wife opens September 14 at Aperture Cinema in Winston-Salem and next week in Charlotte.
Image: Christian Slater, Glen Close & Jonathan Pryce in The Wife
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