Glenn Close seethes brilliantly in new film, ‘The Wife’

Budding actors, I believe, could watch “The Wife,” a film opening shortly in the Bay Area, as a master class in acting.

Glenn Close, in the title role of “The Wife,” is flanked on airplane by Jonathan Pryce (as her husband Joe, right) and Christian Slater as stalking biographer Nathaniel Bone.

Led by Glenn Close as stoic, elegant Joan Castleman, whose best scenes are those in which she has no dialogue, merely facial expressions worth way more than 1,000 words each.

She brilliantly condenses understatement and quashed seething.

Close’s tour de force performance is an ideal contrast to the casual swagger of Jonathan Pryce as Joe, her husband, a Jewish author from Brooklyn who’s won the Nobel Prize for Literature and whose insecurity-driven appetite for women seems insatiable — even at his advanced age.

Christian Slater is appropriately slimy as would-be biographer Nathaniel Bone, who’s dogging Joan, Joe and their angst-ridden son, David (portrayed by Max Irons, son of English actor Jeremy Irons), who’s withering in the shadow of his famous book-writing father.

The character-propelled film, which successfully twists the cliché notion of “the woman behind the man,” effectively confronts not only the fouled edges of celebrity but the awfulness of treating women writers as backdrops instead of talents.

The movie — clearly geared toward grown-up viewers rather than the ubiquitous teen candy- and popcorn-munchers who prefer to see on screen blatant sexuality, superficial themes and fart jokes — is noteworthy, too, by the bravery of Elizabeth McGovern to play a repugnant, wrinkled crone.

In a cringeworthy cameo.

My only problems with the sometimes unsettling movie are that its secretive, dramatic unraveling-of-an-enormously-complex marriage underpinnings are heavily foreshadowed early on and that in a ruthless quest to build tension, director Björn Runge eliminates all humor except for the darkest of dark satires.

That said, it’s important to note that while I fully appreciated Close in the melodramatic “Fatal Attraction” and “Dangerous Liaisons,” and as Cruella de Vil in a couple of cartoonish family flicks about lovable Dalmatians, I absolutely lovedher in this.

Especially her incredibly expressive eyes.

About the Author

Woody WeingartenWoody Weingarten, who can be reached at or, can’t remember when he couldn’t talk — or play with words. His first poem was published in high school but when his hormones announced the arrival of adulthood, he figured he’d rather eat than rhyme. So he switched to journalism. And whadda ya know, the bearded, bespectacled fella has used big, small and hyphenated words professionally since jumpstarting his career in New Yawk City more than 60 years ago. Today the author of the book “Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner’s breast cancer” is also a reviewer-critic, blogger and publisher — despite allegedly being retired. During his better-paid years as a wage slave he was an executive editor and writer for daily and weekly publications in California, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. He won writing awards for public service and investigation, features, columns, editorials and news. Woody also has published weekly and monthly newspapers, and written a national column for “Audio” magazine. A graduate of Colgate University, he owned a public relations/ad agency and managed an advertising publication. The father of two and grandfather of three, he and his wife, Nancy Fox, have lived in San Anselmo in Marin County for three decades. He figures they'll stay.View all posts by Woody Weingarten →