Sunday, January 27, 2019

Video review: "The Wife"

I hope and believe Glenn Close will win an Academy Award for her superlative performance in “The Wife.” That’s because a) she’s been nominated six times without winning; b) it would be a welcome career-capper for an actress who, at almost 72, probably isn’t going to get many more shots; but mostly c) because she so richly deserves it.

She masterfully plays Joan Castleman, a promising writer who gave up her career to raise a family with her husband, Joe (Jonathan Pryce). As the story opens they are edging into their golden years, seemingly happy and about to welcome their first grandchild. Joe, a respected novelist, receives a phone call tell him he is to be awarded the Nobel Prize in literature.

As they fly off to Sweden for the ceremony, cracks in their tranquil façade appear. There are flashbacks to their young lives decades earlier (played by Annie Starke and Harry Lloyd) when we see things weren’t going so well. Joan wasn’t taken seriously by a patriarchal publishing industry, and Joe’s early drafts floundered. They fought and knew anguish.

Problems that started then will come back to haunt Joan in the modern setting… but also liberate her. Close is so good because it’s the epitome of an inside/outside performance. Joan is putting on a face for the world -- a lie, if you will -- and it’s one she’s become very good at maintaining. At the same time, we sense that she has grown tired of this mask and is ready to cast it off.

It’s a brilliant performance inside another performance.

As much as I admire the other lead actress performances vying for awards -- Melissa McCarthy, Lady Gaga -- Close is head and shoulders above the rest.

Bonus features are rather modest. There is a Q&A session with Close and author Meg Wolitzer, who wrote the book upon which the movie is based. Plus a conversation with all of the leading cast members, and a making-of documentary short, “Keeping Secrets: Glenn Close on The Wife.”



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