Triumphant Performance by Glenn Close
Superb is the only word powerful enough to describe Glenn Close’s performance in The Wife. Every actress dreams of getting a role that will showcase her particular talents. Ms. Close has won the lottery with this role that will probably define her career for years to come. Oh yes, she was great in Fatal Attraction and a knock-out in Dangerous Liasons. She dazzled audiences in The World According to Garp and The Big Chill. It was the same with The Natural, and she played a transgender woman as a man in Albert Nobbs. Why are these films significant in her career? Because she was nominated for an Oscar® in all of them! This time, there is no reason why she won’t be nominated again, and perhaps win a Best Actress nomination for The Wife. It’s that good. Maybe even better than some of the others. That’s purely subjective, but we all have our favorites.
Joan (Close) was a budding writer when she attended the classes of Professor Joe Castleman (Harry Lloyd). Young Joan (played by Glenn Close’s real-life daughter Annie Starke -- a dead-ringer for her beautiful mother at 24). They fall in love and eventually break up Castleman’s first marriage. They have two children, David (Max Irons) and Susannah (Alix Wilton Regan). Joan sets aside her aspirations to become a writer and concentrates on her husband’s budding career and on raising the children.
But does Joan sacrifice all her dreams? That is the crux of the story. She is her own woman, independent yet dependent on her husband’s literary career for their prestige in the academic community. She devotes the next forty years to puffing up her husband’s ego, ignoring his frequent, but harmless, indiscretions with bucolic young things, and supporting his skyrocketing reputation in the world of literature.
The elder Castleman (the excellent Jonathan Pryce) doesn’t have much time to devote to his children. He more or less discourages young David’s desire to become a writer like his father. David, in his twenties, has written a story and wants his father’s approval. But daddy is too involved in his own inflated ego to give David the love and acceptance he so desires. There is conflict between them, but actor Max Irons, who plays David so effectively, shows that he loves his father and only needs a pat on the head to alleviate his despair. Irons shows every indication that he will be as good as his own famous father (Oscar® winner Jeremy Irons).
When Castleman receives a Nobel Prize for Literature nomination, it becomes the breaking point for all the years of Joan’s frustration while standing behind her husband. The tagline used is “behind any great man, there is a greater woman.” In this case, it is true. In a twist you may not see coming, Joan bursts forth with a crescendo of pent-up sacrifices she has made and reveals the secret of Joe’s success. It’s a powerful argument the two have just as they are dressing to go to the Nobel ceremony in Stockholm. Close dominates the screen with her fury, her suppressed invective, and her explosive vitriol. It’s one of many scenes which should qualify her for a Best Actress nomination.
My favorite saying about Golden Age star Bette Davis always was that she should win the Oscar® even when she doesn’t make a picture! I think I can apply that to Ms. Close as well. Did I like her in The Wife? I LOVED her!
(Released by Sony Pictures Classics/ Silver Reel; rated “R” for language and some sexual content.)