DVD Review: The Wife

STUDIO: Sony | DIRECTOR: Björn Runge | CAST: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Max Irons, Christian Slater, Harry Lloyd, Annie Starke
RELEASE DATE: Feb. 19, 2019 | PRICE: DVD $14.96, Blu-ray $22.99
SPECS: R | 99 min. | Genre | 2.35:1 widescreen | stereo

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

Based on a popular 2004 novel by Meg Wolitzer, The Wife—the first American feature from Sweden’s Bjorn Runge (Happy End)—gives Glenn Close (Albert Knobbs) an opportunity to shine, and she seizes the day (in a subtle way).

Close plays Joan Castleman, the wife of a Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce, Brazil), a noted author who has won 1992’s  Nobel Prize for literature. Along with their son (Max Irons, Woman in Gold), an aspiring writer, it’s off to Stockholm they go where Joe will receive his award.

But it’s in Sweden where things go awry, as the audience learns that the long-suffering Joan played a key role in her husband’s success—a role that has been kept a secret for years. Also making the trip overseas is a writer (Christian Slater, TV’s Mr. Robot) in hot pursuit to talk to Joan about the couple’s relationship for a biography of her husband he’s determined to write.

While The Wife, adapted by Jane Anderson (Olive Kitteridge), has its share of overly dramatic moments, especially in its final third, Close’s performance as the put-upon, tight-lipped lead character is a delicate dazzler. Steeped in resentment and jealousy, Close plays her emotional cards close to her chest, at least until she lets her jangled emotions toward her husband reveal themselves on a not-so happy trip for what is supposed to be a celebratory occasion. Perfectly complementing Close in a showier role is Pryce as the husband living a lie, and having a good time at it, seducing other women and showing his darker side to his family as he’s about to be feted.

Early Oscar talk had Close as a shoo-in for an Academy Award nod and a favorite to take the Best Actress prize after six times without a win. However, The Wife’s late summer sendoff topped off at $8 million in box-office returns in a limited release, and her chances to take home the gold now seem a longshot.  It would be a shame and, considering The Wife’s plot, an incredible irony: She turns in a tour-de-force performance, relying on glances, body movement and other restrained maneuvers to create a memorable character.  This is clearly one of the trickiest, most powerful efforts in her notable career.

Buy or Rent The Wife

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.