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Her Right To Write: A Review of "The Wife"

Showing exclusively at selected Ayala Cinemas this week is the film adaptation of Meg Wolitzer’s novel, The Wife. If you’re a fan of Glenn Close’s acting; or just miss old school filmmaking where great acting and a solid story with a good twist and reveal, were all you needed to make a film memorable, this one’s for you. And mind you, you better hurry, as I don’t see this one lasting for more than a week.

Set in 1992, the film opens with Joan (Glenn Close) and author Joseph Castleman (Jonathan Pryce) in their bedroom awaiting the fateful call from the Nobel Prize academy as to whether Joe is that year’s recipient of the Prize for Literature. After 40 years of marriage, it’s obvious that this accolade means the world to Joe. Of course, he gets the nod, and we’re off on a spiralling story of the price a wife pays to be there by the side of a boisterous, vain husband. 

 

 

Through flashbacks back to the late 1950’s and 60’s we glean the provenance of Joe’s writing career, and how they met - he was a college professor whose writing was largely ignored, and she was his student of great promise as a writer herself. Married and with a child, we see how their affair started, and how it led to his divorcing his wife and marrying Joan. 

She’s supportive and attentive, he womaniZes and belittles the accomplishments of their children. He forgets the characters of the novels he’s written, and she’s always there , but refusing to take on the role of long-suffering, stoic wife. There’s a hack writer, Nathaniel Bone (Christian Slater) out to write a tell-all biography of Castleman. 

Close and Pryce are nothing short of magnificent in their layered portrayals. Where the film falters is during the flashbacks, as the ones playing the young Joan and Joe just aren’t convincing, and just seem to be going through the motions. This makes for a frustrating, uneven film; as while the story is undoubtedly serviced by the flashbacks and we learn so much about the two, we’re just wishing they get back to the Close-Pryce narrative, which is just so much more enjoyable to watch. 

So do watch this for the chemistry between Close and Pryce; how with a simple gesture or split second facial expression they can signal so much about their characters. On a bigger stage, the film also has a lot to say about Women writers, about sexual politics, and about how far we still have to go in terms of true empowerment.