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The Wife Review - Stunning, Captivating, A Must See

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The Wife, from Sony Pictures Classic and Anonymous Content, presents the story of marriage and compromise, of how one compromise for the greater good becomes a life of choices, of literary passions, of fulfilment, of acceptability and tolerance.

Directed by Bjorn Runge, The Wife stars Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Christian Slater, Max Irons, Harry Lloyd, Annie Starke and Elizabeth McGovern. Written for the screen by Jane Anderson from Meg Wolitzer’s novel of the same name.

The Wife opens on the eve of a pinnacle moment as the two Joan and Joe Castleman, played by Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce, are struggling through a sleepless night, waiting for morning in Stockholm, Sweden and the announcement of the coveted Nobel Prize recipients.


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As the phone rings and they each listen, the camera cuts to Joan, who listens raptly, fixed on each word delivered by the Nobel committee representative. Without uttering a word, a range of emotions pass over her face, pride, astonishment, amazement, surprise and as the accolades continue even a sense of humility is seen.

Her husband, Joe Castleman, will receive the Nobel Prize in Literature and now the two are off to Stockholm but not without the celebration. The day is a reflection of lives well lived, on the surface, a lovely home on the Connecticut shore, two children, a career that echoes passion for the written word, for lives and loves far from the one lived, and beyond the accomplishments of publication, and respected, recognized and well-read, it is a day rarely attained by even those considered the best.

As it is a day to celebrate, David Castleman, played by Max Irons, who is a struggling writer wanting his father’s approval and Susannah Castleman, played by Alix Wilton Regan, who is pregnant, are also attending.

As the day brings many to the home, those also present are a young Joan, played by Annie Starke, a literary genius, attending Smith College, in the 1950’s when women attended college to receive a MRS degree and her professor Joe Castleman, played by Harry Lloyd, as the young handsome Creative Writing professor.

The film intertwines the past with the present and as the celebration scenes fade to the 1950's where their relationship began. With a desire to be noticed, Joan, attractive, somewhat naïve, determined with an assured sense of herself and her work, has one goal and that is to be a published.

Joe, also young and well aware of the captivating effect he has over the young student body of coeds who every year show up with the fantasy of either seducing him or even more difficult the belief they could actually break through the male dominated publishing industry and become the next Sylvia Plath.

For a semester he breathes life into those dreams, allowing them to fantasize for a moment, to believe, to walk away with his nod of approval, to walk into Connecticut social life with the memories of those days when they believed in themselves. True or not, Professor Castleman had told them so. So it was.

A young Joan, who seemed confident in her own work, his clichés which worked on other coeds and even through life, didn’t sway her.

Now, decades later, the two are on flying to Stockholm for the Nobel presentation ceremony. Not alone on the flight, Joan and Joe are accompanied by Max, and biographer Nathaniel Bone, played by Christian Slater.

The Nobel festivities, which are expected seem to expose a rift in the Castleman’s façade of perfection. Celebrations for Joe’s literary achievements are not new, launch parties, book tours, his predilections and fondness for the young coed who fawn over his prose prowess are well known and here in Stockholm for some unknown reason become the moment that breaks the thinning pretense and years of lies, frustrations, of tolerance find their way to the light.


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The Wife is an exceptional film. Every element of the film, from the talent, Glenn Close, six time academy award nominee, who is able to portray emotion that until the climatic ending when one realizes the emotion witnessed was real only misguided.

The entire cast, Jonathan Pryce, who remans true to his character throughout the film. He handles life situations in the same manner, with the same finesse and effect in his sixties as he did in his thirties.

The ensemble of players, Close, Pryce, Annie Starke, who is also the daughter of Ms. Close, Harry Lloyd, Max Irons, who plays the frustrated angst filled essayist on the verge of violence, rage, disappointment and bewilderment and of course, Christian Slater, who as Nathanial Bone is shopping a biography on Joe  Castleman, unauthorized or not.

The Wife is more than a solid, well written, well directed film with captivating performances, it showcases compromises made, what becomes acceptable or at least tolerated for one own gain or desires.

The Wife opens Friday, August 17, 2017. See this film. It’s surprising, fascinating, with a mesmerizing full circle ending.

 

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