“Behind every successful man is a woman.” Director Bjorn Runge’s adaptation of Meg Wolitzer’s 2003 prescient novel portrays, with bludgeoning force, the veracity at the core of this adage.
Glenn Close’s performance as “Joan Castleman”, the dutiful, obsequious wife of Pulitzer Prize-winning author “Joseph Castleman” (caddishly wonderful, Jonathan Price) is astounding in its depth; at seventy-one her strength and intelligence as an actor is at its summit; with seething, subtle intensity she unveils Joan’s life of hypocrisy, falsehoods roiling, begging to surface, weighing the cost of exposure. She is the product of a 1950’s education, she’s talented but realizes, like many women of that generation, that her future lies in the accomplishments of her husband and she loves Joe Castleman.
Effective flashbacks (actors Annie Maude Starke and Harry Lloyd, sensitively depict the youthful Joan and Joe), cleverly unmasks the duplicity of their relationship; Joe a charismatic bon vivant, complemented by Joan’s steadfast scrutiny; yin and yang imbalance destined to implode. Christian Slater, is potently slimy as biographer, “Nathaniel Bone”, igniting Joan’s epiphany; a small but mesmerizing role that Slater commandingly excels at. Max Irons (Jeremy’s handsome son) adequately sketches “David”, ignored, whiney, excluded child of the egotistic Pulitzer Prize champion; his writing acuity, diminished by Joe, encouraged, applauded by Joan.
“The Wife” is an evisceration of voluntary annihilation, excising of one’s inventiveness, for another’s self-aggrandizement; her vision slain for his dreams.