There’s an adage that says, “Behind every great man is an even greater woman.”
The Wife written by Jane Anderson and directed by Björn Runge tests the validity of that statement. Is there a great woman behind the greatness of a man and what does that man’s greatness say about the woman he stands in front of? This adaptation of the novel by Meg Wolitzer stars Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, and Christian Slater.
The Wife follows the story of Joe and Joan Castleman. Joan, is the doting, caring wife, of newly crowned Nobel Prize-winning author Joe Castleman. When we meet them, their marriage seems blissful; as if all the pieces in their life are falling together. They’ve weathered decades together, and at the end of it all, is a legend producing literary career, a son who wants to add to that legacy, a grandchild on the way, and a love that lasts forever. Or so it seems.
The strength of Joe and Joan’s relationship is under scrutiny during their trip to Stockholm where Joe will receive his Nobel Prize for Literature. Joan has to contend with the sacrifices she made to help build a man, that seems to care more about himself and his accomplishments than anyone else. It doesn’t help that they’re being hounded by Joe’s would be biographer, Nathanial Bone, played by Christian Slater, who is looking for any way to weasel his way into their lives.
What becomes clear as you watch, The Wife is though in her own life Joan seems like a sideline character, it is evident she is the star of this film. Glenn Close shows us all why she’s been nominated for six Academy Awards. From the opening scene to the closing one, Close adds a level of depth and gravity to her character that is so layered it leaves you reeling by the time the credits roll. She’s a master at acting, and if you’ve forgotten, this film will remind you.
Jonathan Pryce, who plays Joe, is every bit the somewhat clueless, self-absorbed artist husband. Pryce offers Close the perfect scene partner. He balances his character’s self-absorption and aloofness, with his adoration for the woman who’s been by his side for close to forty years.
The Wife is a phenomenal tale of a woman’s journey to self-discovery by stepping out of the shadow of her husband. Runge gives us insight into the genesis of Joan and Joe’s relationship in the 1950s and how ambitions, secrets, life, and love, evolved throughout the life the couple built together. He juxtaposes those flashbacks against the backdrop of dreary, 1990s Stockholm, reminding us that Joan and Joe are far from who they used to be. The Wife reminds us all that when we shrink ourselves to let others shine; we might live a life of regrets and missed chances.
The Wife premieres in theaters August 17th.