Waking Wife

Glenn Close escapes the shadow of her husband in the most public way

Film Review | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

The Wife
Dec. 14–16

RPL Film Theatre

It’s hard to find a more reliable performer than Glenn Close. The six-time Oscar nominee (she should have won for Fatal Attraction) is equally believable as a take-no-prisoners lawyer, the head of intergalactic police corps and Homer Simpson’s mom.

The Wife gives Close a different showcase, one that asks her to repress her emotions until it’s not physically possible. It’s a stunning piece of acting, one someone with less experience wouldn’t be able to pull off.

The beginning of The Wife is dream-like. Literary lion Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce), one of those American writers who think of themselves as gods, is awakened by a call from the Swedish Academy. He has been awarded the Nobel Prize, the perfect cap to a prolific career.

Very slowly, some cracks begin to show. Joe’s early work is widely regarded as superior to his most recent output; he has dalliances with younger women his wife Joan (Close) seems willing to overlook; and he’s reluctant to give his son (Max Irons) the approval he so desperately craves. Most damaging: A reporter (a slimy Christian Slater) is about to reveal the Nobel laureate may have prevented Joan from fulfilling her potential as a writer.

Director Björn Runge dissects the Castleman marriage mercilessly, shedding light on the problems and unspoken compromises a long marriage accumulates. Unlike the equally brutal 45 Years, The Wife gives us a cathartic release in the form of unleashed fury.

While Close is the show-stopper, Pryce is beat-by-beat as good as the man who buys into his own hype. The expertly calibrated duel remains anchored in reality throughout, making it far more relatable than, say, The War of the Roses.

As takedowns of the patriarchy go, The Wife is one of the most elegant (the writing is exquisite), but don’t mistake refinement with mildness. This puppy has teeth.

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