The Wife

Posted on August 23, 2018 at 3:24 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language and some sexual content
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking and drunkenness
Violence/ Scariness: Tense emotional confrontations, medical issues, sad death
Diversity Issues: Gender issues
Date Released to Theaters: August 24, 2018
Date Released to DVD: January 28, 2019
Copyright Sony Pictures Classics 2018

The title The Wife is telling. The lead character is not even identified by name, just by her role as helpmeet and support system for her husband, a lauded literary figure who has just been awarded the Nobel Prize. Her name is Joan and his name is Joe, suggesting that the boundaries between them are blurred. It is that blurring this movie explores, with a performance of mingled rage, guilt, passion, and integrity by the magnificent Glenn Close.

When the call comes in from the Nobel committee, Joe (Jonathan Pryce) will not hear the news until his wife, Joan (Close) is on the line to hear it, too. They celebrate by jumping on the bed together. “I did it!” he crows! There is a reception in his honor, and then they are off to Stockholm for the ceremony.

On the plane, a reporter named Nathanial Bone (Christian Slater) approaches them with some questions. Joe dismisses him abruptly but Joan is more conciliatory. Is she genuinely sympathetic? Does she think that a touch of courtesy will result in a a more favorable article? Or has she just been mediating Joe’s interactions with everyone for so long she barely even notices it anymore?

There are flashbacks, with the young Joan played by Close’s daughter, the very appealing Annie Starke, and the young Joe played by Harry Lloyd. She was a talented college student and he was a handsome and charismatic young professor. And it’s the 50’s. It seems natural for her to subordinate her own ambitions to his. In Stockholm, though, she becomes increasingly unwilling to continue to hide her contributions to the work that has made him respected and famous.

Joe and Joan are accompanied on the trip by their son, David (Max Irons), an aspiring writer who is bitter and deeply hurt when his father fails to support his work. But we will see that Joan failed him as well. And in the movie’s most powerful moment, Joan shares a drink with Nathanial, who tells her that he has collected evidence from her college days suggesting that at least some of Joe’s published writing was really Joan’s.

Joan also has to ask herself what she got from the relationship, including her contributions to Joe’s work. Flashbacks reveal reasons that she might have preferred to be the silent partner. As the blending of their names suggests, they may be two sides of one whole, one writing for the approval of the world, one relishing the purity of writing without the burden of being a public figure. Close shows us the steely control of a woman who has not been honest with the world but also has not been honest with herself. Did she ignore her young son to help her husband, or to satisfy her need to write?

The film explores these themes less than it should, but the dynamic between both the older and younger versions of Joe and Joan make it a compelling drama, with a stunning performance by Close as a woman who told other stories for decades and may now need to tell her own..

Parents should know that this movie includes strong language, a medical crisis, a sad death, and sexual references and situation.

Family discussion: Why did Joe and Joan perpetuate the lie? Why was it so difficult to give David what he needed? What will happen next?

If you like this, try: some of Close’s other films including “Fatal Attraction,” “In the Gloaming,” and the television series “Damages” and also “What Every Woman Knows,” by the author of “Peter Pan”

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Alone in the Dark

Posted on January 26, 2005 at 1:24 pm

There’s something far scarier about this movie than its CGI monsters, whose lack of any apparent weight makes them seem as threatening as the floating Clifford balloon in the Macy’s parade. What’s scary is the premise: it’s based on a computer game by Atari.

Yes, video games can have ominous atmosphere and relentless bad guys, but they seldom provide much by way of dialogue, character, or plot. You know, those things in movies that make up for the absence of a joystick that enables the player to blow stuff up.

The movie tries to create a story with an astoundingly boring 10-paragraph crawl at the beginning of the film, some mumbo-jumbo about a lost civilization, blah blah, and then there is a second prologue with a child being chased through the woods as a stock company mad scientist explains to a nun why she must support his story about the 20 children he has taken from the orphanage for medical experiments. “It’s not about a few children!” he barks at her. “It’s about the future of our species!”

Finally, we make it to the present day, and that runaway child, Edward (Christian Slater), is all grown up and a paranormal investigator who is being followed by some guy who really, really wants this artifact that Edward has hidden in his snazzy leather jacket. And then it turns into one of those now-they-battle-bad-guys-in-the open market, the Chinatown warehouse, the deserted underground laboratory, etc. etc. movies. There are a couple of good “boo!” surprises, a couple of cool fight moves, and some gross-out visuals, but they keep getting lost under the cardboard dialogue, the throbbing bass accompaniment to both a sex scene and a shoot-out, and the absence of that thing we often look for in movies — what is it again? Oh, yes, acting.

If I almost forgot that for a minute, it’s because everyone in the movie seems to have forgotten it, too. Slater just appears embarassed, understandable in these circumstances. And if our expectations for Tara Reid are low, also understandable in these circumstances, she still does not quite manage to live up to them. The pixels in the CGI monsters give a more believable performance than she does. Preposterously cast as an archeologist, with her hair pulled back and drugstore black-rimmed specs on her nose, she delivers her lines as though she is calling for another round of Mai Tais for the house. And no one seems to have explained to her that in English, the interrogative is usually expressed with a rising inflection.

Parents should know that this is a horror film with constant, intense, graphic violence. Many characters are killed in a wide variety of creative manners, including being impaled. There are monsters and other grisly images. Characters use some strong language and there is a moderately explicit sexual situation.

Families who see this movie should talk about the “greatest good for the greatest number” approach taken by Hudgens.

Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy the movies that handle these themes far better, including Raiders of the Lost Ark.

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