by Hope Madden
You guys, Glenn Close has never won an Oscar. That’s insane, right?
She’s been nominated 6 times—Albert Nobbs, Dangerous Liaisons, Fatal Attraction, The Natural, The Big Chill, The World According to Garp—but never won. I get the feeling she’s looking to change that.
Björn Runge’s big screen adaptation of Meg Wolitzer’s novel The Wife sees Close as Joan Castleman. Joan’s husband Joe (Jonathan Pryce) has just won the Nobel Prize for Literature. The film shadows the Castlemans as they receive the news, celebrate the win and head to Stockholm to receive the award.
Through flashbacks we’re privy to the relationship between young Joe (Harry Lloyd) and Joan (Annie Starke—Close’s daughter) as it develops.
Close is perfect—steely brilliance, her character a wily manipulator of situations whose growing intolerance of her life threatens to crack the polished surface that has adorned this marriage for decades.
The entire film—and every sacrifice, struggle and misery of Joan’s life—plays out on Glenn Close’s face. Close ups reveal not only the resignation and resilience of Joan’s life, but the depths of Close’s talent for communicating her character’s essence. Everything you need to know—about Joe, about marriage, about being a woman, and about Joan’s particular misery—is etched on Close’s countenance. The rest of the film just verifies what you’ve learned.
Nearly equal to Close is Starke, who not only looks the part but whose characterization easily communicates the same studied behaviors Joan will eventually develop into a masterful façade.
Jane Anderson’s screenplay tends to overstate, which is unfortunate. The simple interplay between Close and Price—jubilantly nailing the narcissist whose selfishness cannot be contained—more potently unveils and reveals than any clear-cut narrative scene ever could.
Not that you’ll remember the needless extras: flashbacks illustrating an early pattern of sacrifice; parties and ceremonies depicting Joe as an attention whore incapable of recognizing his wife’s anguish; the slippery biographer (Christian Slater) or mopey son (Max Irons) clamoring for attention.
What you’ll remember is Close, delivering, as is her way, a tour de force performance that may finally land Close her own glittering acknowledgment.