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.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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May 2024