Quick Hit: Hauntingly subtle and yet hits like a hammer, the movie hangs on Close’s every eyebrow raise.
“My wife doesn’t write” Johnathan Pryce jokes as his character Joe Castleman is surrounded by adoring members of his team and family. This moment, and Glenn Close’s (Joan Castleman) subtle reaction are the moments that The Wife is made of. It’s nearly all subtly acted moments by Close that are followed or proceeded by boisterous or large acting by Pryce. But this makes the movie feel as if it’s consistently on a hair trigger – after all, we’ve watched Close go crazy before… is it possible she may here as well?
Joe Castleman has just been told he will receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. This means that a trip is in store for his family – Joan as well as his son David, also someone attempting to put the pen to page in a novelistic form. Joe is a bit of a mess – consistently losing his glasses, cheating on his wife, and getting crumbs in his beard – with Joan appearing as his determined opposite – perfectly poised and put together, and giving her husband exactly what he needs at the right time. We begin to find out how this polar couple came together – Joan was a student in his writing class, eventually writing a steamy story called “The Faculty Wife”, even as she babysat his child while Joe and his wife went out together.
There’s also a present story going on, full of Joan’s transformation into something more than she currently is, or maybe just allowing what was always there to manifest to the surface. Part of this occurs because of Joe’s treatment, but there’s also gentle prompting by Nathanial Bone (Christian Slater), a biographer who sees deeper into Joan than meets the eye after doing some expansive research. While having a drink together, he reveals that he knows that Joe has had various marital trysts throughout his marriage to Joan, of which she nearly laughs aloud – as if she could be surprised by such a thing. It’s a wonderful bit of acting, that is completely outdone by the next thing that Bone reveals. It’s one of Close’s best moments in her career, as she contemplates numerous possibilities, some of them thrilling and others haunting.
There are other moments where Pryce and Close get to verbally spar, and it’s always a pleasure to watch. The film gives them plenty of time to develop and use their chemistry, and it doesn’t just spark but it crackles across in their dialogue. And yet, somehow, throughout the film, Close continues to build in her performance as Joan, in a way that continually buoys the film upward from uninspiring beginnings. Every time I thought that Close couldn’t get better here, she did. It’s absolutely a deserving Best Actress nod for this veteran actor.
At the movie’s end, we’re left with a final act of loyalty from The Wife. And it’s glorious in her delivery. I really enjoyed this one a lot guys – I’m giving it an “A”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"