Sunday, February 10, 2019
OSCARS 2019: The Wife (2018)
make-up award” is a concept that the Oscars is no stranger to. Academy voters are an impulsive lot, often favoring hot newcomers even when more experienced actors gave superior performances. Eager to recognize these oversights, or perhaps realizing they had made a mistake, those other performers will get Oscars later in their career for more minor roles. This is how Al Pacino won an Oscar for hoo-ha-ing his way through “Scent of a Woman.” (This habit also ends up snubbing actually deserving nominees in those years, causing further make-up awards to come into existence down the line. A vicious cycle...) We are looking at another potential upset of that order this year. Glenn Close, generally considered among the greatest actresses of her generation, has received eleven Oscar nominations but no wins. Some are speculating that her latest film, “The Wife,” may finally get Close an Oscar. Which is a neat trick for a movie most people hadn't even heard of before the nominations started rolling in.
In 1992, critically acclaimed author Joseph Castleman gets a phone call: He has won the Nobel Prize in Literature. His long time wife, Joan, seems happy... But there's something else she's feeling. The couple is flown to Sweden, along with their resentful son David. There, Joan spies Joseph attempting to seduce a photographer, the latest in a long line of mistresses. She's pursued by Nathaniel Boone, an author who has been tempting to write a biography of Joseph for years. He has a startling theory: That Joseph is not the author of his award winning books. That Joan has secretly been behind these stories all along.
Once the big plot reveal comes, a large deal of intrigue enters “The Wife.” And it can't help but feel hopelessly unnatural. Frankly, it stretches belief that a deception of this order could go all the way to the Nobel Prize. Especially when a journalist uncovers the truth by looking into documents that are apparently totally public. “The Wife” signals this shift with some further melodramatics. Out of nowhere, Joan asks for a divorce. What results is a ridiculous screaming match between husband and wife that drains all the subtly out of the material. All the interesting tension that was just beneath the surface boils over through a profane shouting match. From there, “The Wife” shambles towards a blunt and sudden conclusion.
above-ground feature for once.
If Glenn Close wins the Oscar for “The Wife,” would that be a deserving outcome? I mean, probably not? Close is very good in the film, though it's certainly not a career-best performance from her. The film itself starts out fairly strongly before largely collapsing in its last third. Despite being a movie about writers, its script is pretty sloppy. A subplot about Joan and Joseph's daughter giving birth contributes nothing. This isn't the only moment in the film that seems to adds little to the actual story. Still, the movie does have its moment and the acting is quite good. That counts for a lot, I suppose. [6/10]