“The Wife” opened on August 17 at the intersection of a couple of movie industry crossroads. One of those is Glenn Close, who is already the subject of discussion over whether this role will finally bring the actress a long-overdue Oscar after six previous nominations. The other is the #MeToo movement, which resonates in the film’s portrait of a woman whose experiences and indignities are kept hidden behind the public’s adoration of her Great Artist husband (Jonathan Pryce).
Critics are responding well to the Sony Classics film. As of this writing it has scored 75 on MetaCritic based on 16 reviews. And it’s 93% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes based on 40 reviews. The RT consensus says the film “relies on the strength of Glenn Close’s performance to drive home the power of its story — and she proves thoroughly, grippingly up to the task.”
Indeed, it’s largely enthusiasm for Close’s lead performance that is fueling praise for the film. Her work is being called “a marvel of emotional intelligence.” It’s a “fascinating and bravura performance” that could be a “career best,” which is especially high praise given Close’s long list of career highlights. Even critics less sold on the film as a whole are on-board for Close’s performance, which “lifts” the film above “cliche setups.” Her “depth” keeps you “riveted.”
Close’s first five Oscar noms came within a span of six years: Best Supporting Actress for “The World According to Garp” (1982), “The Big Chill” (1983) and “The Natural” (1984), then Best Actress for “Fatal Attraction” (1987) and “Dangerous Liaisons” (1988). She returned to the Best Actress race more than two decades later for her role in “Albert Nobbs” (2011). Will the seventh time be the charm?
Leah Greenblatt (Entertainment Weekly): “Welsh actor Pryce (‘Game of Thrones‘) is fantastic … But the movie belongs to Close, whose face, as she is courted and patronized, sexually betrayed and damned with faint praise, is a marvel of emotional intelligence and control; in the thrilling release of the revelatory final scenes, she’s a hurricane.”
Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian): “It is a fascinating and bravura performance from Glenn Close, in this hugely enjoyable dark comedy from director Björn Runge, adapted by Jane Anderson from the novel by Meg Wolitzer. Perhaps it’s Close’s career-best — unnervingly subtle, unreadably calm, simmering with self-control.”
April Wolfe (Village Voice): “This surface story is so familiar that I thought I would surely be bored, but it is the depth Close lends to Joan that kept me riveted — and angry … Perhaps it is the self-awareness of these characters that elevates the film; they’re living a cliche, even as they’re arguing over the cliches in the stories they write.”
Katie Rife (The A.V. Club): “It’s hard to take your eyes off of Close and her masterful, tightly controlled performance … In fact, it’s Close’s wonderfully subtle characterization of Joan that lifts ‘The Wife’ above its cliche setups and neat role reversals, which is really rather ironic. Once again, it’s the wife doing all the hard work. At least this time, she gets top billing.”