The title was a bit off putting – it rather gave the game away – as was the blurb. The cast had a lot of quality – Jonathan Pryce, Glenn Close and Christian Slater – but this whole put upon woman being the real genius is, well, a bit trite. It’s true, sure, in many cases but it’s a story often told.
So I went along thinking, how are they going to subvert the bleeding obvious and make it a novel take that creates its own special USP?
I sat back and let the story – Nobel Prize for Literature awarded to crusty white male with quiet supportive wife and narky son, go to Stockholm where the truth is outed over soused herring and knitwear – wash over me. The acting was sublime, poised, minimalist and believable and I could swing along to the rhythms of disintegration and despair. It’s neatly done, watching everyone’s faltering steps, the grandiose presumption of the male ego and the self deprecating supportive wife, the intrusive journalist, the dissatisfied son. I was on an easy ride, watching this, giving it some conditional stars in anticipation of a decent ending….
And then we got to the crux, the thing that makes this story worthy of my time and hard-earned and, looking back, it didn’t justify the investment. From trite to unbelievable in thirteen minutes. I could plot spoil and explain why I think this piece of filmography supremely irritating but some of you may have booked tickets, some may have read about it, heard about, had friends see it and want to go. Many have rated it highly. Jolly good. You may enjoy it. Just ask yourself at the end, is the eponymous Wife’s role in the marriage credible? Really? Could his role really be as described? Over a career?
It begs an interesting question in this watcher. If seventy percent plus of the film is enjoyable, if the craft of the actors is of a significantly high level throughout, why does the fact that the ending is unsatisfactory compromise the entirety? It happened with First Reformed (reviewed here) and to a lesser extent here. Why can’t I hold onto those good feelings and use them to offset that final squeeze of the lemons? It’s not like a great ending saves a shit film, is it?
Ah me. The imponderables of life. Like why can’t you get all the toothpaste out of a tube?
To make up here a few pictures of the garden…