The Wife (2017)

The Wife
Director: Björn Runge
Writer: Jane Anderson
Based on: Meg Wolitzer’s novel
Cast: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Max Irons, Christian Slater, Harry Lloyd, Annie Starke, Elizabeth McGovern, Johan Widerberg
Seen on: 16.2.2019

Content Note: (critical treatment of) sexism

Joan (Glenn Close) and Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce) have been married for many years and Joe has finally reached the pinnacle of his career: he is about to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. They are on their way to Stockholm to receive the prize when Joan starts reflecting on their relationship that started at college in the 50s, wondering how they ended up where they are now.

I only recently read the book the film is based on and was mildly enthusiastic about it. I was also mildly enthusiastic about the film in a very different way. It’s okay, but not as good as it should have been.

The film poster showing the faces of Joe (Jonathan Pryce) and Joan (Glenn Close) in close-up.

If I compare the film to the book, I do find the film doing a little better in some respects. One of the things that kept me from being completely enthusiastic about the book was the endind that didn’t sit right with me. In the movie, the ending is framed very differently and therefore worked much better for me.

But in some respects, the film does worse than the book. The very political side of the book and its openly feminist criticism of the literary world felt softened in the film, and defanged to a certain extent. I missed that, especially because it was the best part of the book and it should have been just as deep-cutting in the film. Additionally, the film reduced the number of Joe and Joan’s children from three to two – and the child they lose is their lesbian daughter. A questionable choice to say the least.

Joan (Glenn Close) sitting in the audience of the awards ceremony.

Speaking of the film itself, what stands out most is the great cast. Above all, of course, Glenn Close who is absolutely fantastic. But I also really enjoyed Christian Slater in his small role. Other than that, there is nothing really that catches the attention – everything is perfectly fine, well made and of good quality, but a little boring – too matter-of-fact for its own good.

Overall, the film just doesn’t manage to get to a place where you’re actually excited by what happens. It is too toothless for that, too conservative. And that is an absolute pity given the chance they had with the story and the cast.

Joe (Jonathan Pryce) and Joan (Glenn Close) in bed. Joe is on the phone, Joan is anxiously listening to the call.

Summarizing: okay.

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