A wife is many things. Perhaps nothing quite demonstrates religious, political or cultural difference as how a wife is defined. How she is enabled or not. This new film starring the wonderful Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce is a timely piece for gender politics. In many respects the film treads the line of the traditional, supportive American wife. She has given up a career, her dreams have become his and she has watched and supported him to thrive.
Set in the early 1990s, we are introduced to Joan and Joe Castleman. Joe is woken by the ringing bedside telephone (remember those?) and informed that he is to be the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature. It seems that the call is expected, Joe does not wish to hear the news until Joan is also able to hear the confirmation at the same time on the other handset. This is the pinnacle of his career and reward for his vast body of work. Naturally, celebration and a trip to Stockholm follow with struggling, moody writer son in tow.
A Great Woman
We have all heard the phrase “behind every great man, there is a great woman”. This film explores that concept with dark humour. Joe is gradually revealed as a womanising narcissist who trots out the same well-worn and apparently successful pick-up lines. He has a penchant for younger women and despite his evident infidelity is constantly permitted to return to his devoted Joan. This always confounds me.
Through a series of flashbacks to earlier days, we witness the start of Joe and Joan’s relationship. Joe is Joan’s English tutor at University. She develops a crush, does some babysitting for Joe and his first wife which results in a novel “The Faculty Wife” which Joe is clearly pleased with. His teaching is inspirational. However, politics of the day pose a difficult, if not impossible path for female authors. Joan is discouraged from even trying to write by author Elaine Mozell (Elizabeth McGovern)
On the plane (Concorde) to Stockholm, writer Nathaniel Bone (Christian Slater) congratulates Joe on his award and presses him for a meeting to discuss the biography that Bone plans to write about him. Joe is irritated by the interruption and makes it clear that he has no interest in a biography. Joan warns him not to be chiding and to take a more diplomatic approach. Making enemies with a writer is unwise. This signifies the moment that Joan begins to reflect on the choices she has made and their impact on her family.
I shall not spoil the story for you.
I have met hundreds, perhaps thousands of couples in a professional capacity. All are different. Some keep their finances very separate, some very fused and some rather dissolved. It is common for one party to “do the finances” often the husband. I am not suggesting that this is wrong. It does pose a challenge when the relationship changes though either of the two D’s – death or divorce.
The Book of Truth
One book that does not lie is a chequebook (remember those?). This provides an account, warts and all – how we all use our money. There is no hiding. Sometimes the reading is depressing, sometimes encouraging. It certainly tells a story. The Wife is a pretty good story too, here is the trailer.
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