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Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce

“THE WIFE” My rating: 

100 minutes | MPAA rating: R

By the time “The Wife” delivers its big reveal, it should come as no surprise.  The film has been telegraphing its intentions all along; only the most inattentive viewer will be taken aback.

Happily, plot is one of the least important elements in Bjorn Runge’s film (adapted by Jane Anderson from Meg Wolitzer’s novel). What we’ve got here are some terrific acting and a portrait of a marriage in which both partners have struck a deal with the devil to ensure their continued success.

We first meet novelist Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce) and his wife Joan (Glenn Close) in the dead of night. Joe can’t sleep, knowing he’s a finalist for the Nobel Prize in Literature.  Joan finally submits to septuagenarian sex to calm him down.

When in the early a.m. the phone call from Stockholm comes, the two celebrate by jumping up and down on their marriage bed like a couple of preschoolers.

But there are signs that not all is well in the Castleman household.  Joe, we learn, is an inveterate philanderer.  And while their pregnant daughter Susannah (Alix Wilton Regan) seems well-adjusted, their son David (Max Irons) is a slow-boiling cauldron of resentment and hurt, not the least because he is an aspiring writer and desperately wants the approval of his famous father…approval which Joe won’t give.

The scene quickly shifts to Stockholm and the swirl of Nobel Week.  Joe attempts to take all the attention in stride, while Joan looks on. In fact, all this hubbub  — and Joe’s obvious infatuation with the pretty young photographer (Morgane Polanski) assigned to record his visit for posterity — is rubbing Joan the wrong way.

Her mood isn’t improved by Nathanial (Christian Slater, in one of his best performances), a sort of literary leech who wants to write Joe’s authorized biography.  Equal parts charm and smarm, Nathanial spends an afternoon drinking with Joan and suggesting that perhaps she’s the one who should be getting the Nobel. (more…)

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