The Wife (2017 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Björn Runge|
|Screenplay by||Jane Anderson|
|Based on||The Wife|
by Meg Wolitzer
|Music by||Jocelyn Pook|
|Edited by||Lena Runge|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Classics|
|Box office||$18.4 million|
The Wife is a 2017 drama film directed by Björn Runge and written by Jane Anderson, based on the novel of the same name by Meg Wolitzer. It stars Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, and Christian Slater, and follows a woman who questions her life choices as she travels to Stockholm with her narcissistic husband, who is set to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.
The film premiered on September 12, 2017, at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, and was released in the United States on August 17, 2018 by Sony Pictures Classics. It received generally positive reviews from critics, with Close's performance garnering high praise; she won the Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award and Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Actress for her performance, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress and the BAFTA Award for Best Actress.
Although the film's non-linear structure means exposition and revelation is not provided chronologically, a straightforward telling of the plot is as follows:
In 1958, Joan Archer meets Joseph Castleman, a handsome, young, married professor at Smith, a women's college. Although already an accomplished (if unpublished) writer, Joan is awed by Joseph's force of personality and advice that "a writer must write." She meets a published alumna author whose cynical view of the opportunities available to female writers disheartens her. Two years later, Joseph has been fired for having an affair with Joan, his marriage is failing, and his first attempt at writing a novel turns out very poorly.
Joan, a secretary at a publishing house, observes how the all-male editors dismiss women writers. When Joan criticizes Joseph's work, he threatens to end his relationship with her, claiming she cannot love "a hack." Joan agrees to fix Joseph's novel for him. The work, titled The Walnut, is published and becomes a bestseller. By 1968, Joseph and Joan are living in a large seaside home in Connecticut. Joan is hard at work on a novel, to be published under Joseph's name, while Joseph supports her by cooking, cleaning, and caring for their first child, David. As Joseph and Joan converse, it is apparent that Joan's novel is a reflection of their life together, which bores Joan. A narcissist, Joseph has several adulterous affairs over the next four decades, and tells everyone that Joan "does not write."
By 1992, an elderly Joseph has become a celebrated author. He wins the Nobel Prize in Literature, about which Joan is less than happy. David, who idolizes his father but is unaware that Joan has written all of Joseph's books, seeks his critique of his first short story. The three of them fly to Stockholm as Nathanial Bone, a biographer with a taste for scandal, tries to ingratiate himself with the Castlemans. Joan's unhappiness worsens as adulation is heaped on Joseph. His attempts to publicly thank her for supporting him only embitter her further.
Nathanial, sensing Joan's emotional state, induces her to talk with him over drinks and says that he knows that Joan has ghostwritten a major portion or even all of each of Joseph's novels. Joan does not admit the truth, but Nathanial is convinced by their conversation that he is correct. Meanwhile, Joseph begins to seduce a young photographer who is assigned to him, but just as he is beginning his seduction his watch alarms goes off for him to take his heart pills, cooling the moment and she leaves the room. Joseph accuses Joan of abandoning him, while Joan expresses her outrage over his attempted affair. The argument ceases when they learn that their daughter Susannah has given birth.
On the night of the Nobel ceremony, David confronts his parents after being told by Nathanial that Joan is the only writer in the family. Joseph and Joan deny everything. At the ceremony and the banquet which follows, Joan becomes increasingly upset by the accolades showered on Joseph. She flees, and Joseph follows her. He demands that she take his prize, but she refuses. At their hotel, Joan tells Joseph she is divorcing him. They argue violently, and Joseph has a heart attack. Prostrate on the bed, he begs for Joan's love. She tells him she loves him; he replies "You're such a good liar," and dies moments later. On the Concorde flight back to the US, Nathanial offers his condolences to Joan. She tells him that if he tries to print anything that undermines Joseph's reputation as a writer, she will sue him. David overhears her. Joan says that she will tell David and his sister the truth when they get home.
- Glenn Close as Joan Castleman
- Annie Starke as young Joan Castleman
- Jonathan Pryce as Professor Joseph Castleman
- Harry Lloyd as young Joseph Castleman
- Christian Slater as Nathanial Bone
- Max Irons as David Castleman
- Karin Franz Körlof as Linnea
- Elizabeth McGovern as Elaine Mozell
- Alix Wilton Regan as Susannah Castleman
On May 16, 2014, it was reported that Glenn Close would star in an adaptation of the Meg Wolitzer novel The Wife. The film was directed by Björn Runge and written by Jane Anderson. On January 30, 2015, Frances McDormand, Logan Lerman, Brit Marling, Jonathan Pryce, and Christian Slater were announced as having also been cast. On October 19, 2016, Pryce and Slater's involvement was confirmed, and Elizabeth McGovern, Max Irons, and Close's daughter Annie Starke joined the cast, playing the roles originally set with McDormand, Lerman, and Marling, respectively; Harry Lloyd was also added. Close approached Gary Oldman for the part of Joe Castleman but he was unavailable for the role. The Wife shot scenes in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Arbigland Estate in Dumfries.
In its first weekend of limited release, The Wife grossed $111,137 from four theaters, for an average of $27,784, the best of the weekend. It expanded to 18 theaters in its second weekend, making $212,714.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 85% based on 200 reviews, and an average rating of 7.1/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Wife relies on the strength of Glenn Close's performance to drive home the power of its story—and she proves thoroughly, grippingly up to the task." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 77 out of 100, based on 36 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."
Peter Travers, in Rolling Stone magazine, gave the film four out of five stars, calling Close's acting a "tour-de-force," and saying she "takes it to the next level with a powerfully implosive performance that doubles as an accumulation of details that define a marriage. She never telegraphs Joan’s feelings, letting them unravel slowly as we watch her attend parties as a buildup to the big night." The chief film critic for The Observer Mark Kermode described the movie as a "Stockholm syndrome with a twist," while Glenn Close, interviewed by Robbie Collin for Irish Independent, described it as "part-period piece, part-love story, part-Bergmanesque drama—so much so the latter that it could have been called Scenes from a Marriage." Citing the screening coordinator Peggy Siegal, Bill McCuddy of the Gold Derby called The Wife "the perfect '#MeToo' film" and defined it as Oscar bait.
San Diego Reader writer Scott Marks gave the film one out of five stars and criticized the film's simplicity, writing: "It might not have been so bad had the road to the big reveal been paved with insight and originality, but other than the performances, there is nothing here audiences haven't seen more times than they have their own feet." Writing for the Chicago Reader, Ben Sachs wrote: "Because the performances are so calculated, the emotional outbursts on which the story hinges fail to make a dramatic impact. And for a film about a novelist, The Wife conveys very little sense of what it's like to read or write."
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