Movie Review – The Wife

Tense and brilliantly acted, Björn Runge’s The Wife is a thoroughly immersive and ultimately rewarding experience.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Zachary Cruz-Tan

We are living in a time of burgeoning female empowerment, with lots of movies speaking up with voices that used to be silenced. Among them, The Wife stands out as one of the best, not particularly because it is about a strong woman, but because the woman realises just how strong she really is. She has spent a lifetime alone with inner demons, manhandled by stereotype, but in no way has she surrendered her feminism.

The woman is Joan Castleman, played by Glenn Close in one of her greatest performances. Joan is married to Joe (Jonathan Pryce, equally fantastic), a long-time novelist who has just won the Nobel Prize for literature. The couple, along with their adult son David (Max Irons), travel to Stockholm in preparation for the award ceremony. Joe and David don’t get along. Joe starts to flirt with the young photographer assigned to him. Christian Slater slithers in as a biographer with a thirst for the truth, no matter how damaging.

So, let’s just say there are secrets in here that need to be uncovered, and both Close and Pryce do an outstanding job at keeping those secrets buried just beneath the surface. The movie also travels back to the ‘50s, where a young Joe (Harry Lloyd), a literature professor, takes Joan (Annie Starke), his brightest student, under his wing and eventually under his sheets. “A writer must always write”, he proclaims. And so he must. But what if what he writes isn’t very good?

The Wife is all about being silenced, not by torture or physical oppression but by the fear that a patriarchal society will frown heavily upon creative women. Outside his adultery, Joe is not a bad man; he’s simply a product of his time, and since his time has been so good to him, why should he think to change it?

It would’ve been nice if the screenplay by Jane Anderson had steered away from some contrived narrative impulses, like the unexpected tragedy at the end that neatly avoids dealing with the resolution our two main characters deserve. It’s a bit of an easy escape after establishing them so richly. But there can be no mistake, The Wife is a terrific film, and each time the camera lands on Glenn Close, her face tells a thousand stories.

The Wife is available in Australian cinemas from August 2 

Image courtesy of Icon Film Distribution

 

 

Does winning an Oscar actually matter?

Winning an Oscar is great and all, but is it really all that it’s cracked up to be?

 Rhys Graeme-Drury 

The annual awards circus is upon us once again. Numerous red carpets are being rolled out to receive reams of bedazzled famous faces, all of whom are hoping to drive home with a gilded statuette resting on their laps.

We place a lot of value on those who have walked away a winner on Oscar night – just ask Leonardo DiCaprio. For years the Internet yearned for Leo to finally nab one – and then he did in 2016 so we all collectively rejoiced and laid the dank memes to rest.

Apparently, an actor or filmmaker can’t claim to have truly arrived until they score an Oscar statue of some kind. Right? Eh, not exactly.

Even though it’s all very exciting and generates a lot of gossip, the Oscars aren’t actually good for all that much (and this is coming from someone who gets invested every year and is genuinely still upset that Eddie Redmayne beat Michael Keaton back in 2015).

Across its history, the Academy Awards have made a habit of routinely shunning some of the best and brightest talents and minds of the era – which sort of defeats the purpose of rewarding those who produce the best films, surely?

Filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick, Brian De Palma and Alfred Hitchcock have famously never won anything for their directorial efforts, with the latter losing out in the Best Director category on five separate occasions. Kubrick’s entire catalogue only took home a single Oscar win; 2001: A Space Odyssey won Best Visual Effects in 1969. For those of you playing along at home, that’s the same number of Oscars as Tim Burton’s 2010 remake of Alice in Wonderland and Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbour. So it’s not like the Academy is a great barometer of quality and lasting legacy, huh?

The same could be said for actors; Bill Murray has never won an Oscar, but do we view his filmography with any less reverence? The same can be said for umpteen actors and actresses from across the decades. For many people, Harrison Ford is the literal embodiment of sharp and sophisticated Hollywood stars. He is Han Solo, Indiana Jones and Jack Ryan in the flesh – we don’t need the Academy to tell us Ford is a living legend, he has crafted that legacy without their adulation.

The same goes for Gary Oldman, Edward Norton or Joaquin Phoenix; they’re back catalogues speak for themselves. Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Annette Benning and Sigourney Weaver have all been denied Hollywood’s highest honour – but that hasn’t hindered their standing as some of the most talented actresses to grace our screens.

Some may think that winning an Oscar is also guaranteed to usher in a string of professional riches for the lucky winners, but too often that isn’t the case. Hunger Games sensation Jennifer Lawrence has racked up a surprising number of nominations (four) and one win at the tender age of 26 but it wasn’t until recently with Passengers that she was given a bigger slice of the pie than her male co-stars, financially speaking.

You only have to glance at the list of the highest paid actors across the industry today to see that those raking in the most cash aren’t necessarily those who took home the most awards. Robert Downey Jnr routinely makes in excess of $50 million for each Avengers performance whilst Johnny Depp is still throwing on funny hats and making bank despite never winning an Oscar. Meanwhile I don’t see Disney or Marvel throwing $10 million at Mark Rylance or JK Simmons, the two most recent winners in the Best Supporting Actors category.

Essentially, what I’m trying to say is, it doesn’t matter whether La La Land scored four, fourteen or zero nominations; what matters is how it is making audiences feel. The same goes for Moonlight or Manchester by the Sea or any of the other films nominated this year.  After the cameras inside the Dolby Theatre have gone out on February 26 and all the very famous people have gone home, regardless of who won or not, these films will continue to captivate and enthral audiences long afterward.

Films like Sing Street, The Witch, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Midnight Special all characterised my cinema experiences in 2016 but didn’t get a look in at the Oscars. Should I feel any less moved by their characters or narratives because they can’t claim to have been ‘Oscar nominated?’ No, of course not. Films mean so much more than just handing out trophies and racking up stats; we can leave that sort of thing to sports thank you very much.

Rather than taking a snub personally, just brush it off with a shrug. So what Amy Adams didn’t get nominated for Arrival? That doesn’t change how moving and powerful her performance was. Who cares that Sing Street didn’t get any love for Best Original Song? It doesn’t mean I don’t still love that soundtrack to pieces.

Don’t get me wrong; awards season is a lot of fun. But it’s also a lot of meaningless and banal bullshit that ultimately shouldn’t change how we view art or place value on what something made us think or feel.

Enjoy the Oscars, lap up the glamour and laugh at all the gaffes – but don’t forget that there is a whole myriad of wonderful films out there whose enduring qualities don’t change regardless of who wins or loses on the night.

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films