Watching Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce is a treat, and the details in Björn Runge’s production are so convincing that it wasn’t until the film was over that I found myself pondering its credibility. That’s a credit to the actors and director but a failing in the story, which Jane Anderson adapted from Meg Wolitzer’s best-selling novel.
Close plays the title character in The Wife, the saga of a venerated American novelist who wins a Nobel Prize for literature and travels to Stockholm to accept it along with his wife and malcontent son (Max Irons), who is also an aspiring author. The relationship between husband and wife is warm and loving but built on a house of cards, liable to collapse at any moment. Flashbacks fill in their story, from the time he was her English professor at college and she was a gifted student. No one is more aware of all this than ambulance-chasing author Christian Slater, a gadfly who is dying to write a biography of the Nobel laureate.
Tiptoeing around the spoilers that would expand this outline is tricky, but suffice it to say that every character is harboring secrets, and we bear witness as those long-held confidences unravel before our eyes.
This is compelling stuff, to be sure, and Close and Pryce (along with their costars) make the most of it. Director Runge captures all the nuances in their expressive faces…yet the screenplay becomes more schematic as it goes along and the “reveals” turn out to be less than shocking.
If you admire great acting, The Wife is worth a look. I quite enjoyed it until my wife and I were driving home from the screening and started to dissect the story. It does not bear scrutiny, but it’s not a waste of time when you get to spend quality time with these superb actors.