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« TIFF: "Disaster" is James Franco's Best Performance | Main | TIFF Discovery: A Shirley Henderson Master Class and a Wild Argentinian Family »
Thursday
Sep142017

TIFF: Glenn Close is "The Wife"

our ongoing adventures at TIFF. An abdriged version of this review was originally published in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad.

Film festivals nearly always provide curious dialogues between films that you weren't expecting. On the same day on the exact same screen at TIFF I managed to see two films about female writers and the male writers in their lives who take up all the oxygen (and praise) in the room. Who would have thought that a film about the origins of Frankenstein (just discussed) and a star vehicle for Glenn Close in Stockholm would have so much in common? 

THE WIFE (Björn Runge)
Joan Castleman (Glenn Close) is a longsuffering wife who would bristle at that very description. She's married to a famous novelist Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce) and their homophonic names are no coincidence. The silver-haired couple have been together for nearly half a century and are inseparable if not quite interchangeable...

As The Wife begins we learn that Joe has just been named the Nobel prize winner in literature and the couple are to travel to Stockholm together for the ceremony. They're so happy they actually jump on their bed together in a singularly charming scene. This slow burn story may start out playful but it deepens as it goes thanks to Close's brilliant work.

the younger and the older CastlemansAll the principle characters in Joe's orbit also happen to be writers and resent him, if not quite his enormous success, for different reasons: his son David (Max Irons) never gets the encouragement he needs, his wife Joan was a promising writer who set her own career aside when she married him, and then there's Nathaniel (Christian Slater) who's been trailing the family for years trying to get permission to write Joe's biography.

The cracks in the happy marriage facade begin to show as the Nobel ceremony nears and flashbacks pile up. Annie Starke, Close's own daughter, plays her as a young college student and Elizabeth McGoven gives great cameo as an aggressive lady author who warns her away from the sexist literary world which just won't let women succeed. Björn Runge, a Swedish director making his first English language film, doesn't find many ways to visualize all of the drama - it's mostly two or more characters arguing in rooms, planes, or hotels, but he's great with the actors who all deliver in this adaptation of Meg Wolitzer's bestseller.

The interpersonal dynamics and face-offs are the savory meat of the film. To my personal astonishment Glenn Close restricts herself to chewing on it rather than the scenery! Put simply it's the best work she's done in over 20 years.

Close's opacity as an actress, the unknowability of that glacial face, has often been disguised by her sheer volume and ferocity in so many gorgon roles. Here in Joan's quieter less sinister register, she's spectacular. You constantly attempt to figure Joan out but Joan will not have it. She prefers to remain a mystery, hiding her true feelings from everyone, including possibly herself. Her mercurial moods will shift within scenes; just when you expect her to double down on anger she'll throw compassion at you, and vice versa, keeping you off balance. At one point in a brilliantly acted private 'date' with that would-be biographer, she says "I'm shy" with something like mock flirtation. It sounds like a lie, but it's actually the truth of this mesmerizing character.

The film isn't quite as coy as Close, eventually revealing its hand. Joan Castleman and her poker face would not approve. But that, in a nutshell, is the satisfying friction of the film, a star vehicle wherein the star keeps threatening to jump from her own limo.

 

On set filming The Wife with the stunning and talented Glenn Close and her dog Pip.

A post shared by Christian Slater (@realchristianslater) on Nov 16, 2016 at 11:11am PST

 


Grades
: Glenn Close A; Film B
Oscar Potential: A probable Best Actress nomination for Close if the film finds distribution in time.

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Reader Comments (45)

YES

September 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

After Hillary, I don't wanna get my hopes up the Academy will correct the results of 1988. The women of Dangerous Liaisons deserve their just due.

September 14, 2017 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

OH HELL YES!!!!! JESUS LORD THE THIS OSCAR HAPPENS WITH GARY OLDMAN NEXT YEAR!

September 14, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterjon

My God if/when Close gets a seventh (!!!) Oscar nomination (and presumably loses), AMPAS has to give her an honarary one, right? I mean, even they can't be that clueless/cruel.

September 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Bening vs. Close would be delicious.

September 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBruno

GLENN CLOSE GET THAT OSCAR GIRL!

September 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCraver

Hell yeah, just the thought of another great leading role for Close is cause for celebration, it's been sooooo long. That she delivers and then some is music to my ears...

September 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJows

Excellent. Sounds like a very worthy Oscar vehicle for her.

In my opinion, Glenn Close's big mistake was diving into TV work before TV became prestigious. In the 90s you'd see her on the Hallmark Channel, CBS, NBC movies of the week, etc. Message movies, westerns, HBO melodramas, an ill advised remake of The Lion in Winter. None were half as good as Damages and by the time that came around, she was basically an established TV actress.

I get that beggars can't be choosers, especially women over 40 in Hollywood. But I'm sure when it came time to cast Meryl Streep's part in The Hours it's helpful when your last IMDb credit isn't some Sarah, Plain and Tall sequel for the Hallmark Channel.

I wish there had been more parts for Glenn along the way (and she certainly found them onstage) but as you said, she is one-of-a-kind and her greatest roles are miracles of acting and casting.

September 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterHayden

I really hope whoever picks this up decides to release it next year and build buzz - sort of like Away From Her when it debuted at TIFF in '06 and was released in '07 (everyone knew that the race was over when Mirren debuted The Queen in Venice).

There's already an overdue actress in the race this year (Bening), two acclaimed ingenues (Robbie, Ronan), the supposed frontrunner in a sure-fire best picture juggernaut (Hawkins), a huge crowd pleaser (Stone), and two potentially gargantuan performances from Oscar perennials we haven't seen yet (Winslet, Streep).

Wait till next year. It would be devastating to see her lose again.

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

Waiting until next year is sound advice indeed.

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

@Aaron: I don't know. I could see Close stping on all of those ladies. She's just so overdue and so well respected, even if she isn't the best of the bunch she can steamroll this competition ala Julianne Moore style with a worthy performance

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

I am so happy to hear this about Close's performance. It's a tough year to throw your best performance in over 20 years though.

From everything that I've read and seen, I don't think Benning is happening this year. Her vehicle is not as focused, and she faces stiff competition from more solid performances in better vehicles. From festival circuit, the stronger buzz is coming from Hawkins, McDormand, Ronan, Stone and Chastain. One could argue that based on critics praise alone, Hawkins has this in the bag but you never know. That's already five spots and then we have Lawrence (unlikely though as mother! will be too divisive), Margot Robbie (performance acclaimed in another divisive film but those who love it, love it), and the unseen ones: Streep, Williams and Winslet.

Thompson, Mirren and Dench will not make the cut, and Benning will not either.

I'm ra ra ra about Close, and would love it if she can make it and take the golden one all the way. If not, my pony will remain to be Hawkins.

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJones

@ Anonny - Julianne Moore had the benefit of such a weak year that even the classic supportive wife role that usually frauds its way into the supporting category chose to go lead, despite the actress's being a relatively unknown Felicity Jones. And they had to dig up Marion Cotillard in some obscure French language role about a depressive woman to prevent Jennifer Aniston in a vanity project from being nominated. That Oscar race was bleak!

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

Gotta say I still believe there will be an Oscar for Close waiting ... and it will be some small movie like "45 years" or this one. It breaks my heart to know she lost her incredibly layered, sexy and vibrant "bunnyboiler" '87 to Cher !!??? I saw Fatal Attraction last week for the first time after probably 20 years - it's still a damn good movie - but it's her's ! Although I'm holding all thumbs for Benning - I'm a bit over awarding the next Hollywood princess AGAIN. Yes Stone was sweet - and she is a great natural actress but honestly NO competition to Benning, Huppert or Chastain last year - I wouldn't even nominated her. .... Which brings me to the idea why not have a "Best Actress" smack down ?!

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMartin

There's no actual frontrunner yet. And this isn't the only review that I've read that heavily praises Close. Other than Winslet, I think a good release date could propel Close to the lead ahead of all of the other contenders, most of whom are either previous winners (Lawrence, McDormand, Stone) or don't have the performance to back up the support for a win (Bening, Chastain).

I think the only possible threat is Winslet, if she really is as good as word says she is, but even then a supposedly "career best" from Close in a film focused on her and her overdue narrative could beat that.

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteve_Man

Wouldn't it be wonderful if Close sand Pfeiffer win their Lead and Supporting actress Oscars at the same time? I will even cut Winslet and Streep slack (aka forgive) to be nominated again.

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJans

@Carmen Sandiego.

Yeah, I agree. Moore's year was perfect - Sony Pictures Classics specifically picked Still Alice up and released it that year for the sole purpose of winning Julianne Moore that Oscar. And you're right - it was a weak year (although, happily I really like all the 5 women nominated that year). They were not going to give Reese another Oscar, Marion was happy to be there, They hated Pike's film, and Jones was the classic supportive wife role like Vikander in The Danish Girl that had it been a competitive year she would've easily frauded her way to supporting.

Judging by festival and audience reaction, The Shape of Water, Battle of the Sexes, and Lady Bird - for example - seem to have their sights set on much more than Best Actress and could conceivably crack into Picture, Screenplay, Supporting, and other categories. Ditto for The Post, Wonder Wheel, and All the Money in the World. A small, intimate film like The Wife may have problems competing with them and personally I think it would be wise to release it next year and make some time to build buzz, rather than dumping it in the midst of the holiday season at the end of the year.

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

What a joy to see Close back on the red carpet in a lead role with great reviews....I hope she does make it in this year, currently based on buzz it looks like

Hawkins
Robbie
Winslet
Close
Streep ( sight unseen )

followed closely by McDormand, Ronan, Stone, Mullligan and Chastain, although this list feels far too full of regulars to materialise.

I think if she makes a nomination she is in a really strong position to win, great performance, 7th nom, certain age hence last hurrah.

I also recently watched Fatal Attraction and Moonstruck on the same day, v different performances and films but my god Close was robbed. She has mentioned she would play Alex Forrest different today but I think she nailed the fact she was more ill then evil first time round.

That opening aggressive stare, baby voiced platitudes, slightly overbearing confidence before the full mental collapse all lead to an iconic performance , ROBBED i say !!!

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGizmo

I hope they'll release this film next year, it would be amazing to see Glenn again in the running for the Best Actress Oscar and 2018 could offer an easier race (hoping she would have a chance to win, this time)

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterStefano

A lot of my faourite actresses are in contention and now Close,what's an Actresexual to do with his own ballot.

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Close has things going against her though,v small film,competitive year,she's not Julianne Moore and I mean that in a nice way,she is regarded now as more of a TV actress,it'll be hard but possible.

Cher deserved the 87 Oscar and Close in 88,that's the way the Oscars should have gone then Foster can have hers in 91.

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

80's oscars should have gone

80 - Spacek
81 - Undecided
82 - Streep
83 - Walters
84 - Turner ( if nominated )
85 - Goldberg
86 - Weaver
87 - Close
88 - Close
89 - Pfeiffer

I realise a v american big movie star list but how delicious would those winners have been !! One can dream

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGizmo

80's Ladies

1980 - Tyler Moore
1981 - Keaton
1982 - Lange
1983 - Streep
1984 - Redgrave
1985 - Goldberg
1986 - Matlin
1987 - Cher
1988 - Close
1989 - Pfieffer

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

They'd be silly to push Close this year with Bening, Streep and Dench in very serious contention. Right? Streep and Dench should never be underestimated and Bening feels like she has momentum.

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

i thin they should go for it, it is always going to be competitive and if they go 2018 it ,she will lose buzz and be forgotten, not sure why close in a good film with a great performance and a MASSIVE overdue narrative can't beat everyone else.

Streep isnt going to win, Dench wont be nominated ( its a nice perf , but we have seen it literally all before ) and I'm not even sure Bening will make the cut.

Leader at the moment had got be Hawkins, she looks INCREDIBLE in those trailers.

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGizmo

I was pleasantly surprised to read the glowing review for Close in The Guardian. And then TFE validated the claims here. I hope she gains momentum, get nominated for the 7th time and win in The Wife. That way her Sunset Blvd film will not be saddled with so much expectations.

I wonder if her performance in Crooked House will gain traction. I have not seen the film but her Lady Edith role is a plum role in the Agatha Christie story. It's probably a supporting turn.

Someone said that Close and Pfeiffer should win their respective Oscar statuettes next year. I fully agree. I remembered this photo of them around the time both were nominated for Dangerous Liaisons. Madame de Tourvel and the Marquise de Merteuil once again and in a happier alternative universe. http://images4.fanpop.com/image/photos/24100000/Michelle-Pfeiffer-michelle-pfeiffer-24164906-398-500.jpg

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterOwl

I'm with Gizmo on this one. Close is a legend of every single acting medium who, consequently, has stored up more than 30 years of good will with her peers and others in the business. If the performance it that brilliant, I can't imagine waiting until next year provided that the iron heats up now. These races almost always are shots in the dark where everyone is a sure thing until they're not.

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

Of the contenders seen so far (by others), in most confident in Hawkins, Stone and Close. The remaining spots are up for grabs with a shitload of competition.

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

We haven't had a year like this in a while, where the winner won't be apparent until we see who has made the cut. Hawkins feels right, but it also feels like she could miss a nomination entirely. Same with Ronan. Do not be surprised if Dench and Streep get default nominations, and the eventual winner comes down to which other 3 actresses get a nom.

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

it's called "the wife"? Jesus Christ... anyway, Im still a bit of a film noob when it comes to pre-2000s movies (I was born in 93, not an excuse, but the only one I got), but Fatal Attraction is one of my favourite movies and Glenn Close absolutely demolished her role. The woman's a genius from what Ive seen
I actually prefer her to Meryl Streep; Close just has this ease in her acting that Streep doesn't. Her nom for Albert Nobbs was so perfunctory it hurt so I hope she can get properly recognized here.

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterkris

A tiny film like this won't just need any distributor, it will need a distributor that is skilled at bringing tiny films to the attention of the Academy. The problem is that the distributors who are the best at doing this, like SPC and Searchlight, already have their plates full for 2017. (Searchlight, for instance, has three major Best Actress players - Battle of the Sexes, The Shape of Water and Three Billboards.) Gregory Ellwood did a blog post yesterday in which he summarized the films on each studio/distributors plate, and basically everyone has at least a couple of plausible Oscar contenders. So I think it's likely that this will get pushed to 2018.

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Close has nothing to lose going full steam ahead this year. I want an honorary her just because I don't believe they'll ever embrace in a competitive race. But then again I was wrong about Moore needing to compete in supporting to ever win a competitive Oscar. And I sincerely never expected Close to get raves again for a leading role in a film. So what do I know? Go Glenn go!

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

I say go for it this year. We cannot possible know what actress will emerge next year with a knock-out performance and stand in her way. Who knows if they'll make it on time!

A bit of trivia: if Streep is nominated again this would be the fourth time they are nominated together. They coincided in 1987, 1988 and 2011 (Streep won).

They also competed against each other twice at the Emmys: en 1997 and 2004 (Streep won and in her acceptance speech said "I know my friend Glenn Close will forgive me").

Going back to Oscar, back in the 1940s, the two reigning queens of melodrama at Warner and MGM, Bette Davis and Greer Garson coincided 4 times! That was in 1939, 1941, 1942 (Garson won) and 1944. That's understandable considering that they were both nominated five times in a row! Davis from 1938 through 1942, then skipped one year and again in 1944. And Garson in 1939, then skipped one year and the streak was from 1941 and 1945.

There's also 4 heads-to-head between Al Pacino and Jack Nicholson, but I don't want to overstay my welcome!

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

Suzanne: He lists a WWII Period Biopic intrinsically tied to a box office smash hit as his only "minor" player. Yeah, does that not seem...insane to anyone else?

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

If The Wife gets distribution this year, Close will win. No doubt about it.
She's not gonna be ignored again.

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterferdi

Kris -- given the content of the film THE WIFE is actually a perfect title. It's all about her hiding in that gendered role and also bristling against it, being married to a famous man.

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Nathaniel- Oh, I'm sure it suits the movie fine, regardless, you know it sounds generic, dont talk to me like Im crazy, baby.

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterkris

kris -- that's true. it is generic and i always wonder why movies title themselves with things you cant possibly search for on google ;)

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Kris I'm going to bite ... the book is called the wife ... hence the name of the film

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGizmo

Close is an acting force... she is a constant in her varied roles.. the Constant being Excellent.

I hope she at least receives a nom.

September 15, 2017 | Unregistered Commenternatalie

Looks like it might be Bening vs Close in 2018. I've been predicting Close will get her 'PAST DUE' Oscar given that this would be her 7TH nomination. And the reviews to date have been very impressive. Just have to wait and see. BOTH actresses are due.

September 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBette Streep

I hope the movie gets a distributor and goes for the nom this year. And possibly win. Close has the narrative, the acclaim, the respect and the role. The reviews so far are astonishing!

If they push the movie to 2018, Close could get some competition from:
Blanchett - Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Nicole Kidman - Boy Erased
Rooney Mara - Vox Lux / Mary Magdalene
Charlize Theron - Tully
Margot Robbie - Mary Queen of Scots
Saoirse Ronan - Mary Queen of Scots
Isabelle Huppert - The Widow
Viola Davis - The Widows
Elizabeth Debicki - The Widows
Kristen Stewart - JT Leroy

September 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterManuel

Her nomination for the tiny "Albert Nobbs" just proved the AMPAS want her back, so i really hope The Wife gets picked up by a good distributor, so we can have a "Still Alice" campaign.
If things are done well, only Kate Winslet in a "Blue Jasmine" kind of performance, or Michelle Williams killing it in "All the Money in the World" could be real threats...
And to be honest, only a Williams win could make me as happy as a Close triumph

September 16, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterClement_Paris

Well, I've said it before that Close can exude multiple emotions in one scene. That's not easy to do. It sounds like that's what she's doing in this film throughout.

I read a review of The Wife stating that neither Streep nor Lange could bring a masterclass of a performance to this role like Close did. That says A LOT about her performance.

As we know, the best don't always win Oscars because A–list performances become subjective when they're at such a high level. So, if this is one of Close's best performances, then she could win simply because she's overdue and simply because many people feel she has been one of the best for so long – just undervalued in comparison to her peers. We all know there have been Oscar winners who didn't really deserve the award for playing less difficult roles than their contemporaries. Releasing The Wife now or next year, then, shouldn't matter if Close is that good in the film. Besides, if Sunset Blvd. is made and is good, she could actually be a threat in that vehicle as well next year.

September 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Get that distributor and run for Oscar NOW! Fuck waiting. No one is promised any damn thing! Ask Heath Ledger. None of those ladies are promised Oscars either.

September 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterWest

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