Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for October 6th, 2018

The Wife ****

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 6th October, 2018

The WifeIt has often been said that behind every great man there is a great woman — or maybe in this postmodern world one should say “great Other”. This is as true of artists as it is of politicians, though the license to abuse such a relationship often given to painters and writers goes way beyond what most political figures would dare to try to get away with. Think Picasso and Augustus John, or in the literary field V. S. Naipaul or Evelyn Waugh. So the initial premise of Bjorn Runge’s movie The Wife, in which a Jewish American Nobel Prize for Literature laureate sets off to Stockholm with his wife and son to collect his medal and cheque while manifesting a certain degree of nerves seems fairly straightforward until it gradually becomes clear — with the help of flashbacks to the beginning of his career — that things aren’t that straightforward at all. His wife — a tour de force by actress Glen Close — increasingly demonstrates that she is much more than just his loyal spouse and nursemaid and that burning within her is a deep resentment at what has been a concealed truth ever since he left his first wife for her. As one begins to understand the greater depth of her character one simultaneously becomes uncomfortably, even nauseatingly, aware of the writer’s shallowness. In its own way, Jonathan Pryce’s performance as the insecure, selfish and manipulative novelist is also remarkable as one’s reaction to the character migrates from sympathy to disgust. Max Irons, as the son crying out for his father’s approval, is in contrast a little two-dimensional and Christian Slater as the slimy young biographer determined to make a killing by writing an exposé about the writer’s true limitations is something of a caricature. However, it is probably right that the minor characters are denied a real opportunity to be in the limelight as it is the wife, and therefore Glen Close, who emerges towards the end as a butterfly, escaping from the cocoon into which her marriage and sense of duty had encased her. Not a perfect film, then, but one that makes one think.

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