Viewing the film The Wife is like watching a superb stage play with legendary lead actors afforded unrestricted freedom to perform their role to “A” Game level. Glenn Close (The Big Chill, The Natural, Fatal Attraction) and Jonathan Pryce (Evita, Tomorrow Never Dies, Game of Thrones) are the lead actors in The Wife and Director Björn Runge (Daybreak, Mouth To Mouth, Happy End) lets them run free.
As Joan and Joe Castleman, Close and Pryce are exceptionally good – together and separately – in every scene of the film. They are wife and husband of 40+ years. The script from Jane Anderson (It Could Happen To You, How To Make an American Quilt, Mad Men, The Wonder Years) based on the Novel by Meg Wolitzer provides Close and Pryce the vehicle to be their very best. They are successful to such an extent that you would think Close and Pryce had actually been married for 40+ years.
Joe has a big event occur that is effectively a crowning achievement in a career full of major success and public notoriety. Joan is clearly the behind the scenes person supporting Joe. When together and out of the public eye Joan has her own voice and persona and for the most part it is used to protect Joe from himself (e.g., eating, memory lapses, etc). In public Joan has a highly muted voice that is deferential to Joe. The Castleman’s have two adult children in various stages of their life that Joan and Joe do not necessarily agree upon as to the method of treatment as aging parents.
Through flashbacks, we learn how Joan and Joe meet, fall in love, get married, struggle, and eventually prosper. It is clear that Joe is the outgoing dreamer who – while appearing to be considerate – is hyper focused on his own persona and success (private and public).
Joan on the other-hand accomplishes much early in the relationship; she is recognized by Joe (private and public) as a promising disciple in their chosen profession and determines she wants and gets Joe as her husband – although he is married when they first meet.
As Joan and Joe struggle after going out on their own, choices (based on the reality of the situation) are made that influence and ultimately determine their respective career paths. The Wife is superb at peeling back and revealing layers of the life and relationship of Joan and Joe. The Wife is adept in presenting the character of Joan and Joe without falling victim to easy gross over characterizations. Because of the quality of the screenplay and the skill of the actors, Joan and Joe are shown to make career choices that while not ideal, and not known outside the two of them, adapt to reality and allow for them to stay together, have kids, and prosper financially.
The Wife pushes and pulls, and tugs and tears at the fabric of a 40+ year relationship, and the dilemma involved when considering, let alone actually changing your role in the relationship.
Jeff’s Worthless Trivia and Other Thoughts
Annie Starke (South Pacific, Albert Nobbs) plays Joan in college. She looks like a young Glenn Close. The reason being Starke is the daughter of Close and Producer John H. Starke (Deadpool, Sicario, Prisoners).
Glenn Close is clearly deserving of an Academy Award Nomination in the role of Actress in a Leading Role – which she received. What surprises me is that Pryce and Anderson were not nominated as well. Their work in The Wife was, in my opinion, near or at the top for all films in 2018.