Dir: Björn Runge
Starring: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Elizabeth McGovern, Max Irons, Harry Lloyd, Annie Starke, and Christian Slater
There are many comments about the role that women have in shaping men, but my favorite of all the comments goes something like this, “Behind every successful man is a woman rolling her eyes”. The eyes play an important role in director Björn Runge’s film “The Wife”, an adaptation of author Meg Wolitzer’s novel “In the Shadow of Big Boys”. The intriguing eyes here belong to the magnificent Glenn Close who composes the title character with unspoken resilience and subtle confidence, a woman who has been burdened with the ungrateful role of caring for an egotistical and petulant man who is admired by everyone around him.
The film concerns the long relationship between a married couple who have seen a lifetime of ups and downs both in the literary world and in their own personal marriage. Joe (Jonathan Pryce) is an author whose lifetime body of work is being honored with the Nobel Prize, his wife Joan (Glenn Close) sits in the shadows doing the arduous task of keeping her husband presentable, personable, and productive. They travel to Stockholm for the awards ceremony and the wounds from their past begin to open up.
“The Wife” has all the trappings of becoming an overly sentimental and forgettable story about the complexities of marriage, something that has been done before with films like “Another Year” from director Mike Leigh or “Scenes from a Marriage” by Ingmar Bergman. But “The Wife” wisely keeps clear of easy solutions or indulgent sentimentality and instead focuses on the characteristics that change people over time and how the definition of love means something wholly unique to two people in a long-term relationship. It also helps that the actors here are exceptionally talented and provided with meaty material to lavish over.
Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce play the married couple. Mr. Pryce does a fantastic job of playing the whiny and arrogant author who consistently neglects the good woman that has stood by his side their entire life. But Glenn Close, providing one of the better performances of the year, plays the wife with meticulous composition. Ms. Close does more with her eyes and demeanor than with any spoken words in the film. In one moment the character is tasked with holding the coat of her husband during a bustling dinner party, Ms. Close’s character is positioned mostly in center frame, her eyes darting around at the admirers of her husband and also through the drivel her husband expels at length. During this entire time, as you can see Ms. Close sizing up the entire room, she has her husband’s coat shackled around her hands. It’s subtle filmmaking composing a powerful message about their relationship.
“The Wife” is a movie for grownups, a film that details complicated behaviors between two people who have a long connected past. It’s fascinating to watch the development of the characters, even if the narrative takes a few predictable turns. If that doesn’t intrigue you enough, watch this movie to see Glenn Close show why she is one of the best actors to do the job.
3.50 out of 5.00