Blu-ray, DVD, Digital copy; 2017, R for language and some sexual content; Streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNOW, Gooogle Play, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube
Best extra: “In Conversation with the Cast of ‘The Wife’”
GLENN CLOSE is raking in the kudos and awards for her portrayal of Joan Castleman. She's already won the Golden Globe, and Sunday night she took the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actress, which is often an Oscar predictor.
Joan is the gallant, long-suffering woman-behind-the-man who has subverted her career and talent to her husband Joe who, at the start of the “The Wife,” discovers he’s won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Adapted by Jane Anderson from the 2003 novel by Meg Wolitzer, “The Wife” is directed by Swedish director Björn Runge (“Harry and Sonja”).
Without being a spoiler, suffice it to say that Joan, beginning when she and Joe got together in the 1950s (he was her writing instructor at Smith), agreed to a peculiar arrangement that suited her at the time. But now that the couple is gray-haired, in their 60s, and their two children are grown, Joan is obviously weary of her husband, his infidelities and, most important, that arrangement. Their son (Max Irons), who is with them on their trip to Stockholm for the award ceremony, is also a writer. He is perennially pouting and petulant because he’s also fed up with his father, whom he feels doesn’t praise him enough.
An American journalist (Christian Slater) who wants to write Joe’s biography is staying at the same hotel, and keeps pestering Joe and Joan for information and, he hopes, permission to write the book. So there’s all that. Flashbacks take us to Joe and Joan’s early days together, for which young Joe is played by English actor Harry Lloyd and Joan is portrayed by Annie Starke (Close’s real-life daughter). This is a film that appears to have resonated with many women, especially those who may have experienced feeling invisible, or the lesser partner, in a relationship. Close and Pryce are seasoned pros, and their performances are standouts, despite a script that can be heavy-handed and melodramatic, and a final act that feels contrived.
This Sony Pictures Classics Blu-ray looks and sounds excellent. Skin tones are natural, contrast is good, close-ups deliver tremendous detail. The soundtrack is also flawless and dialogue is always clear.
Include a brief interview with Close on the set; and a Q&A with Close and Wolitzer. Jenelle Riley, an editor at Variety magazine, poses questions to Close, Pryce, Slater, Starke, and Runge, in front of an audience of Screen Actors Guild members.
The Swedish director says that after reading the screenplay for “The Wife,” he “had to audition” for Close before he was hired. Close says she loved that Runge had been a theater director and a writer. She adds she’s a “huge fan of (film actors) starting in the theater … it teaches you self-reliance … you really learn your craft.” Pryce notes that the film was “less about the Nobel Prize and more about a long relationship.”
Slater says he liked that his character “kind of evolved” over the course of the film, and that being named “Nathaniel Bone” was appropriate because he was like “a dog with a bone … he won’t let go.” Close praises Pryce for being comfortable in a film called “The Wife,” to which Pryce jokingly retorts, “They wouldn’t listen to me and change it to ‘The Husband,’ but what can you do?” Starke, who loved the collaborating she got to do with her mother, says she saw the film as “an homage to her grandmothers, “who didn’t follow their dreams or career paths.”
Runge talks about the Nobel Prize ceremony which, while much of it was shot in a Glasgow, Scotland, theater, was “98% authentic.” Pryce and Close note that, as a result of a sexual harassment and corruption scandal that postponed the presentation of a literary award, “Joe Castleman is the only recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature this year!”
— Peggy Earle