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With: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Max Irons, Christian Slater, Harry Lloyd, Annie Starke, Elizabeth McGovern, Johan Widerberg, Karin Franz Körlof
Written by: Jane Anderson, based on a novel by Meg Wolitzer
Directed by: Björn L. Runge
MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexual content
Running Time: 99
Date: 08/17/2018

The Wife (2018)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Close Call

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I finally caught up with The Wife now that Glenn Close has won a Golden Globe and received an Academy Award nomination (her seventh) for her lead performance. That may be a little too much pressure to review the film objectively, and certainly Close is outstanding. But I think I agree with the IMDB commenter who said, "A very good movie which I didn't like." Close plays Joan Castleman, the wife of novelist Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce). Joe has just been chosen to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the family -- including grown son and aspiring writer David (Max Irons) -- are off to Stockholm for the ceremony. Through flashbacks (young Joan played by Annie Starke and young Joe played by Harry Lloyd) we learn of a "shocking" twist, that the film decides to reveal well past the halfway point. To start, for a movie all about the art of writing, The Wife is, at times, annoyingly pedestrian. Whenever the pesky would-be biographer Nathaniel Bone (Christian Slater) shows up, Joan explains that she doesn't want to be seen as a victim, or the long-suffering wife, yet that's pretty much what she is. When Joe asks "why did you marry me," her answer is "I don't know." And we don't either. Oddly, the flashback scenes seem to work the best, and some of Slater's scenes are interesting, but when it centers back around to present-day Joe and Joan, as they fight and talk about Joe's eating, medication, and extramarital affairs, it turns into hackneyed melodrama. Perhaps if the screenplay had laid everything on the table all at once, then all the characters could have been more fully developed. But as it is, The Wife is a partly-effective exercise that will likely be forgotten after awards season ends. Elizabeth McGovern, of all people, appears in one scene as a bitter published writer that warns the young Joan against pursuing a career in prose.

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