Early morning. The telephone rings in the house of acclaimed writer Joseph Castleman (Jonathan Pryce). It’s the Swedish Academy, announcing that Joseph will be awarded with the Nobel Prize in Literature. News are overwhelming and soon the Castlemans are surrounded by the joy and congratulations of all their friends, praising the writer and his family: his wife Joan (Glenn Close), son David (Max Irons) and daughter Susannah (Alix Wilton Regan). Joseph, Joan and David fly to Stockholm for the ceremony but while still on the plane, we realize that something is strange in this story of cultural success. A nosey journalist (Christian Slater) wants to dig deep in the personal history of Joseph and Joan and some repressed tensions will soon unleash during those days of glory and splendour…
Based on the novel by Meg Worlitzer, The Wife is a solid classic drama, released in cinemas with perfect timing (this year, the Nobel Prize for Literature has not been assigned due to a scandal involving sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior), whose strength is the unforgettable performance by Glenn Close as Joan. In 1988, the final scene of the movie Dangerous Liaisons by Stephen Frears made history as the depraved Marquise De Merteuil was shown, bitterly defeated, while removing make-up in her room. An apparently low-paced ending to a rumbling drama whose chilling atmosphere was all on the solid skills of this great actress which was nominated for the fifth time (out of six, at the moment) for an Oscar.
Here, Close displays the same skills and tricks. She completely relies on her face and a priceless range of expressions she can show. Look at her humbleness while her egocentric husband shows off during the meeting with the other candidates. Look at how much “unsaid history” lies behind those half-smiles and lowered eyes. And then, again, during the ceremony, all the spectator learnt and understood during the movie returns again, overwhelming, without a word, the loudest scream ever heard expressed only through a quick movement of the eyes and the sudden clamp of the jaw. It shivers.
Jonathan Pryce too is superb, depicting one of the many witty and classy villains to whom he accustomed us during the years (think of 007 baddie in Tomorrow Never Dies, ambitious High Sparrow in Game of Thrones or fierce Sir Strange in Taboo), a man whose flaws are evident and whose mask is slowly falling apart also due to a cardiovascular disease, while rising star Max Irons mortifies himself as David, in desperate need to find his own voice as a writer and as a man, and Elizabeth McGovern appears in a small but bitterly remarkable cameo.
But the magnificent acting of Glenn Close raises this movie to a higher level of empathy and emotion, giving to the audience a performance to remember which will probably bring Mrs. Close for the seventh time to be nominated for an Oscar. We sincerely hope that this time the Academy will finally celebrate her art.