Heavy-handed and cliche-ridden are the kindest adjectives I can summon for the screenplay of Meg Wolitzer’s novel; since I never read that, I can’t say whether “The Wife” is faithful to the original, but the film bats it out of the ballpark on both scores. The plot concerns a writer/husband who wins the Nobel Prize for Literature and his long-suffering writer/wife who turns out to be the actual talent that sparked his otherwise lifeless output. This is not a spoiler because the revelation is obvious at the start from the following tonsorial clues: Glenn Close has a hairdo like Joan of Arc, Jonathan Pryce has wild hair and a scruffy beard, the disturbed son has a nutty comb-forward - uh oh - something’s not right with this family!
In subsequent flashbacks, we will see that Glenn has been locked in a room to pound away at a typewriter for 8 hours a day while her little boy screams for his mommy outside. We will learn that a successful writer advised her that “nobody reads books by women,” obviously leaving her with no choice but to ghost her husband’s work. While in captivity, Glenn clearly hasn’t heard about the hundreds of highly successful women writers in mid-century America (see Wikipedia’s list for evidence). The stereotype of Jonathan Pryce’s Jewish serial lecher is the equivalent of Shylock’s money-lending skills and of course it will extend into the Nobel ceremony itself. If you’re a male Jewish writer, your genes are partly in your jeans.
There’s also a sneaky would-be biographer of the great author (Christian Slater) who manages to be on the very same flight as the Stockholm-bound couple and he will succeed in sprinkling some family dirt onto the fragile son who needs to serve some purpose in the film besides annoying his father and the viewers. If you’re still desperate for a soap opera with more suds than most, rest assured that everything you think will happen does. Need I say more?
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