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The Worm Turns

Saturday, February 16, 2019
By Deepa Gahlot

The Wife
Bjorn Runge
Cast: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Christian Slater, Max Irons and others
Rating: * * * 1/2

Adapted from Meg Wolitzer’s book, The Wife, directed by Bjorn Runge, has been considerably simplified, but still, it is a nod to every woman who has let go of her own ambition so that her husband can be successful.

Glenn Close in an award-worthy performance, plays the sixty-something Joan, the patient and self-effacing wife of celebrity author Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce), who treats her with astonishing disdain, dumping his coat into her hands when they enter a party and claiming jocularly, "My wife's not a writer — if she were I'd have permanent writer's block," while condescendingly also thanking her for her contribution to his work.

Joan puts up with his arrogance, his serial infidelity, his refusal to encourage his son’s (Max Irons) writing, till he wins the Nobel Prize, and they go to Stockholm to the ceremony; then she makes a silent resolve to leave him. Dogging their heels is a persistent writer Nathaniel Bone (Christian Slater), who wants to write a biography of Joe, and has dug up the facts that the Castlemans want to hide.

Joe revels in the adulation and immediately sets his eyes on a young female photographer, assigned with shooting his pictures.

There is a flashback of Joan and Joe as youngsters—she is a talented student and he, her teacher. He leaves his wife for her, and it is clear later why he stayed married to Joan. She looks after his health, but also minds his fragile ego that demands that everything revolves around him, even it means burying her own talent.

Even though the plot is not convincing, and Joan’s eschewing of her writing career just because a embittered female writer said that the publishing world is hostile to women not at all plausible, the film works mainly because of Glenn Close’s performance—amazingly giving the impression of wearing a happy mask while seething inside.

With all the progress women have made over the decades, The Wife, is still sharply observant of the power play in a marriage, rigged so that the woman can never win.

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