Review / ‘The Wife’ (M) *** and a half

I TRY to approach each film with a forward gaze uncluttered by expectation, hope or similar sentiments not yet supported by the experience of actually having seen it. Sometimes I bend that rule.

Which happened when I was preparing to watch this movie about the relationship between a husband and his second wife as they head off to collect his Nobel Prize for literature.

Surely, I expected, the screenplay would give two top-of-the-list actors a basis for intelligent interaction en route to a challenging denouement.

After seeing it, I concluded that American playwright Jane Anderson had adapted a novel by Meg Wolitzer to guide Swedish filmmaker Björn Runge in building “The Wife” into a chick-flick for and about intelligent people.

It poses no difficulty about understanding its hoppings back and forth in time, as young Joe Castleman (Harry Lloyd) abandons a first wife in favour of Joan (Glenn Close) to whom he stays married when Jonathan Pryce is playing him on the prize-conferring junket. It offers an unremarkable picture of their lives as grandparents. On board Concorde flying to Sweden, it introduces a fly in the dramatic ointment in the form of Nathaniel (Christian Slater) who’s questing material for a book about the great writer and would like to get Joan into his bed on the way, perhaps to even the score for Joe’s infidelities with students.

But as the plot began to thicken, well, not exactly thicken but make a kind of progress toward a real dramatic issue, it turned with increasing frequency to cliché. Subtle cliché, to be sure, but sufficient to downgrade my rating for the main body of the film.

Some academics accuse even Shakespeare of having played a similar game. Regular filmgoers should not be troubled by guessing where it’s going well before it gets there. Very likely, guessing correctly!

At Capitol 6, Palace Electric, Dendy and Hoyts

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