The Wife - This Beautifully Subtle Movie Rocks
Dir: Bjorn Runge
Starring Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Christian Slater, Annie Starke, Max irons, Elizabeth McGovern
Glenn Close’s producers were wise to hold The Wife back from a release late last year, (to mount a proper awards campaign for her) as she will unquestionably land her seventh Oscar nomination for it. And if she happens to win, this will not be a sympathy fuck, but thoroughly deserved, for she is remarkable here as the wife of novelist Jonathan Pryce, a man who has just won the Nobel Prize for literature, something he may or may not deserve.
Pryce himself is magnificent, as the couple (with their reluctant son) travel to Stockholm for the ceremony. At no point for the majority of the film do you come to resent him, despite how egotistical he seems to be, despite the hints of domineering, always balanced with what feels like a genuine love for the woman he has spent a life with. It is one of the overall strengths of the movie, that their relationship is always shown as loving, but complex, how what remains unsaid speaks more than the words they exchange.
And it is in the unsaid that Close excels. Her Jonaie often stands on the sidelines, carries her husband’s coat, says little. But her face expresses more than mere dialogue could ever match. Through her subtle reactions and lost looks she creates a vivid portrait of a woman who has lived through a life taken away from her, and one who may no longer be able to carry on doing such. Yes, she gets her “Oscar clip” moment towards the denouncement, but it’s the quiet, still, brilliance of her inhabiting the role that makes the strongest, lasting impression.
Some flashbacks featuring Close’s daughter Starke, as a younger version of herself add greatly, (as does Slater as a suitably sleazy wannabe biographer/deus ex machina), but the film overall does not match its central performances. It at times lurches into the territory of the clichés it also discusses, bordering on melodrama even. But the power of Pryce and Close in particular rise above such things.
We’ve said it before – but is Glenn Close The Wife to beat this year? (Can’t get enough of that cheap joke!) On the strength of this – right now? Yes.
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