Glenn Close is a phenomenal performer. Her work as an actress has spanned decades and have produced some of the most ground-breaking roles of all time. Perhaps best known as the infamous bunny boiler in romantic thriller Fatal Attraction, Close has immersed herself in such great films such as Dangerous Liaisons, 101 Dalmatians, Paradise Road, and has even played a mournful pirate in Hook. With all these under her belt, and many Academy Award nominations (but no wins…why Hollywood?), you could say she is one of our best actresses.
That being said, Close is truly at the top of her game in the brilliant drama The Wife.
Directed by Bjorn Runge and based on a book by Meg Wolzter, The Wife revolves around Joan Castleman who has spent many years supporting the literary career of her husband Joe, despite being a writer herself. When he wins the Nobel Prize for Literature, they are initially jubilant and are whisked off on a celebratory trip to Sweden for a lavish presentation ceremony. However, the journey may prove fateful for the pair Joan starts to unravel and dark secrets start pouring out. It doesn’t help that they are hounded by a biographer who is threatening to bring those secrets to light…
Glenn Close is phenomenal in Runge’s heavy-handed but emotive movie about a wife on the edge of her own becoming. She delves deep into the intricacies of this character whilst deftly handling her outwards persona. Close is soft in her approach to Joan, giving her patience and duty, whilst still stoking the fires of rage and passion beneath. With just a rise of her eyebrow or a well-placed pursed lip, Close conveys so many words, thoughts, and feelings. It is not just a great performance, it is an impeccable one and one of the few places where the movie anchors itself with some depth.
There are many issues with The Wife. The gender politics are not explored enough in comparison to their relationship. It’s a muted movie, granted, and has a lot of subtleties here that a viewer can read into but a film such as The Wife needs to be firmer with its look at how the past and present silence the voices of women. With this flaw it seems that The Wife is just paddling in shallow waters. This is made clearer with flashbacks that, despite revealing truths to them, actually have little weight to them even with performances by Harry Lloyd and Annie Stark (Close’s daughter.)
Bjorn Runge’s background in theatre directing shows. Though he adeptly handles the piece here, the scenes can feel stifled with clear direction and lazy set-ups. The transition from paper to page loses fluidity and mars the film’s intensity which only bursts out into full boom by the penultimate sequences. Whilst Runge proves a good cinematic director, he isn’t a great one here.
With support from Jonathon Pryce, Max Irons, and Christian Slater, The Wife is merely an perfect pedestal to parade Glenn Close’s formidable performance to the world. And we can hardly grumble too much about that.
The Wife is out in cinemas 28th September
See a preview on the 26th at Picturehouse Central!