The Wife-An Ideal Film For Literary Buffs

I believe that the American movie viewing audience with a literary bent will surely enjoy The Wife. The film, based on the Meg Wolitzer novel of the same name, focuses on the lives of Joe Castleman, the esteemed American author who has been selected as the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, his wife Joan, and their son David. The year is 1992, with flashbacks going back to the 1950s, when Jane is Joe’s student in a literature class at Smith College, and later into the 1960s when Joan becomes Joe’s second wife and the supportive partner in his blossoming writing career. Meanwhile the grown-up David has also chosen to write and is trying desperately to gain his father’s respect and recognition for his work.
Glenn Close is superb in the role of the older Jane. She is hiding secrets and suppressing emotions, and this is revealed by viewing the subtle changes of her face and reading her body language. One can see the strong influence of Ingmar Bergman on Swedish director Bjorn Runge’s direction of her complex and unpredictable character.
On the other hand, I found Joe, whose older embodiment is played by Welsh actor Jonathan Pryce, and whose younger one is played by Harry Lloyd, as well as the adult son Max, played by British-Irish actor Max Irons (Jeremy’s son), to be both predictable and stereotypical in their behavior. Joe, who comes across as an amalgam of Saul Bellow and Philip Roth, is the poor Brooklyn Jew hungering and hustling for fame and fortune in the literary world. David’s incessant brooding over his father’s seemingly negative opinion of his writing gets a bit tiresome at times.
Yet the story has a strong and compelling narrative and a powerful ending that delivers quite an emotional punch to the gut. The pageantry and the backstage antics of the Nobel Prize ceremony were fun to watch. Christian Slater is effective in his role as Nathaniel, the journalist who is Joe’s unctuous would-be biographer traveling to Stockholm to cover the ceremony and dig up dirt on the family. Glenn Close gives one of the best performances of her long film career and is certainly deserving of an Oscar nomination. For that alone, this movie should be seen.