Glenn Close is breathtaking as ‘The Wife’

Latest performance of veteran actress deserves attention after a long career under the radar

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It's a slow build, but the dramatic tension of "The Wife," fostered by Glenn Close's incredible performance, makes the depicted relationship gripping.

Courtesy Sony Pictures Classics

The phone rings. Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce) learns that he has become the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Joan Castleman (Glenn Close), his supportive and reserved wife, quietly listens on the other line to hear the news. Joe is astonished. Joan holds a tender smile. 

As part of his award, the couple is invited to a ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden. Through this trip, the audience sees the breakdown of a marriage that never really seemed to fit perfectly. No marriage is perfect, but there is an edge to the Castlemans’ relationship that begs dissection. 

Both characters are in the twilight of their life and exhibit signs of that lifetime spent together. They know everything about one another and that knowledge drifts their love into simplicity. There is a subtle attitude of settling for one another.

Mrs. Castleman has been beleaguered by those around, her even if they don’t know it. Her husband has stripped her of her former self by making her give up something that she originally didn’t want. But now, Joan wants it back, as it slowly boils to a finale that will make you speechless. 

You will question the choices made by everyone. What would you have done in Joan’s situation?

Despite the edge this film brings, the story is hard to watch at times. Issues like the pace, the writing and the performances, with the exception of Close and Pryce, are unfortunate, given the material. However, the payoff is worth it. 

Any scene with Close and Pryce going at one another is breathtaking. The words spoken by each of them and the timing and versatility required is something only seen by acting legends. Their banter is as harsh and chaotic as Katharine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole in “The Lion in Winter” — but it could also be equally soft and understanding. 

So much is said with so little in this film and that can all be attributed to Close’s performance.

Her face tells the story and emotion in a way that has rarely been seen on screen. An example of this is Sandra Bullock’s performance in “Gravity” as an astronaut who gets stranded in space. Another is Claire Foy’s performance as Queen Elizabeth II in the first two seasons of Netflix’s “The Crown.”

Face acting is such a hard aspect of the craft in the way it's done in projects like these. You have to be subtle in showing what emotion the character is feeling. Even though the characters within the story do not know the true feelings, the audience does. 

Close not only mesmerizes throughout the film — she particularly shines in the last 30 minutes as the plot comes to a boil. Her performance poses questions about femininity, motherhood, marriage and success. 

Some have said that two of the top contenders for the Academy Award for Best Actress this year will be Lady Gaga for “A Star is Born” and Close for this role. This will clearly be a close race and a tough decision for the Academy voters. Gaga is an internationally-recognized singer whose first major motion picture performance was a critical and commercial success. She could have a long career ahead of her with many films to come. Close is a veteran actress who has starred in countless films that have garnered her critical acclaim. In her mid 70s, she has been nominated for an Oscar six times and has never won. It's probably time she be recognized by the Academy for her work, but will she finally win with “The Wife”?

Regardless of that question, not only does this film deserve to garner Close with her seventh Oscar nomination, it may constitute the Academy to bestow her with her first win. 

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