The Wife

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Re: The Wife

Postby ITALIANO » Mon Oct 08, 2018 3:16 am

dws1982 wrote: It thinks it's Chekhov or Ibsen, when it's not even John Patrick Shanley.



Yes - amd considering the locations and the director, one could have also mentioned certain Swedish directors and playwrights that it think it is :)

But maybe because I went with very low expectations, I wasn't that disappointed honestly.

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Re: The Wife

Postby dws1982 » Sun Oct 07, 2018 6:36 pm

ITALIANO wrote:
The Original BJ wrote:I'm more in line with Mister Tee's take than those that flat-out HATED it .


Yes - I can imagine one hating, say, Caligula or even - though it is a masterpiece - A Clockwork Orange... but hating The Wife?! Indifference, I can understand - but hatred is a bit too much honestly. Or maybe I'm just too old and I would never spend energy (and hating something needs energy) on such a minor, though watchable, effort.

Well, "hated" may be a strong word. Sometimes my initial reaction leads to stronger feelings than I have when I have a week or two of distance. But I just had zero patience for its pretensions to being some Grande Literary Drama. It thinks it's Chekhov or Ibsen, when it's not even John Patrick Shanley.

Ironically, I read about some changes that the movie made from the original novel, and they all appear to be changes that make the story less interesting, in my opinion. The prize in the book is not the Nobel, but is instead a fictional prize called the Helsinki Prize, which is a prestigious but lower-tier price that is given to writers who probably won't win the Nobel. Another was that during the climactic fight, Close's character began physically pushing and hitting her husband before his heart attack.

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Re: The Wife

Postby ITALIANO » Sun Oct 07, 2018 3:59 pm

The Original BJ wrote:I'm more in line with Mister Tee's take than those that flat-out HATED it .


Yes - I can imagine one hating, say, Caligula or even - though it is a masterpiece - A Clockwork Orange... but hating The Wife?! Indifference, I can understand - but hatred is a bit too much honestly. Or maybe I'm just too old and I would never spend energy (and hating something needs energy) on such a minor, though watchable, effort. What can I say? Interesting theme, but it's true that it could have led to a much deeper, and even narratively more complex, movie. Even Close's final outburst - when it finally happens, and it HAD to happen - could have been much better written (if it had been, it could have redeemed the film).
Still, Close is good. Her performance is more intelligent and more nuanced than the vehicle itself, but of course I don't think she SHOULD win an Oscar for such a flawed little thing. And will she win?I I can't believe that she will get many precursor awards - with the possible exception of the National Board of Review prize (maybe the Golden Globe, who knows). But I'm not even sure that it will only depend on the competition - Geraldine Page won for a much worse performance and her competition was strong. I think the main problem - the reason why right now I'd say she won't - is the movie itself - and yes, Page's movie was dreadful, but at least it was based on a prestigious play by a respected writer. The Wife is so unmemorable that only Blue Sky comes to mind as a possible precedent.

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Re: The Wife

Postby The Original BJ » Sat Sep 29, 2018 7:52 pm

I'm more in line with Mister Tee's take than those that flat-out HATED it -- I found it engaging enough, with a decent conceit, but thought its execution was on the hum-drum side, even when making allowances for the limited nature of such a smallish vehicle.

SPOILERS ARE GOING TO FOLLOW

I think my biggest problem with the film is a structural one, because the structure really prevented the movie from exploring its central idea to a degree of complexity that most of us might have wished. I have a general issue with films that feel the need to present their twists as a possibility before confirming them later on -- I think it REALLY zaps all sense of surprise/momentum from a narrative. I'd heard there was a significant narrative turn going in, and purposely avoided reading reviews for that reason, so when the film got to that Close/Slater scene where he raises the question of whether or not SHE wrote the novels, I thought, oh that's interesting, assuming that whatever the twist was would be an additional turn that took the story in a surprising direction. So I found it pretty much a letdown when a chunk of time later, the movie...basically just confirmed EXACTLY what Slater's character had suggested in that scene.

There are all kinds of ways this could have been handled in a more interesting fashion. The turn could have been saved for later on, when it would have had some real impact -- I immediately thought of how much more emotionally startling a similar plot development at the end of Act One in Proof played ("I wrote it!"). OR, the film could have revealed this earlier, giving it quite a bit more time to delve into the issues many of you raise below. (And I have to disagree with Greg -- I don't think the intention of the film is for you to assume this plot development from the jump, though I'm surprised how many critics have revealed it in their reviews.)

I didn't think the film was as simplistic about this revelation as some of you -- the flashback scenes seemed to suggest that both partners were making significant enough contributions to the material, with her having essentially more raw talent/inspiration, but him having a knowledge of craft that allowed him to refine to a notable degree. It seemed to me this was more complicated than what it might have been -- she wrote everything and he took the credit -- though I agree that the details of their professional and romantic relationship and how it progressed over time were left far too vague, to the movie's detriment. (I, too, thought it would have been interesting to know if she had ever thought about going public about things, and how that affected their relationship going forward.)

I probably liked both Close and Pryce better than anyone else here, with Pryce pretty perfectly capturing a kind of academic type who presents as pseudo-intellectual while having thoroughly boorish tendencies underneath. And I think Close plays a lot of moments in the first half quite effectively -- she's gifted a lot of reaction shots that the actress makes compelling in quiet ways, clearly hiding a lifetime worth of hurt beneath her outward demeanor, finally allowing that to explode in the late-film moments. But I do agree that she seems miscast as a Best Actress winner for a role that isn't all that dominant, unless the overdue narrative comes to take over completely. I saw the film opening weekend and thought, if she has a slate like Julianne Moore did -- a bunch of actresses with no narrative in minor movies -- she could end up a de facto winner, but if she's got decent competition, it's hard to see her prevailing. Given that the year seems to be providing us the later, I think she's got an uphill battle.

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Re: The Wife

Postby Greg » Wed Sep 26, 2018 7:54 pm

SPOILERS???

I pretty much figured out that the Close character was the real author just from watching the trailer.
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Re: The Wife

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Sep 26, 2018 2:40 pm

Uri wrote:
Mister Tee wrote:I simply don't get what persuaded critics and bloggers to react so strongly to the performance last year


Once the Oscar narrative was set, and in this case it seemed to happen when people learned what the premise of the film was and the fact that Close, highly respected yet Oscar free, had a leading role in a "serious" film. The actual performance became secondary, still the canonizing of it is required in order to build up that said Oscar narrative. It happened in the past with Geraldine Page (with what was a subpar performance) or Susan Sarandon (a good, but not THAT good one).


See, my memory of last year at Toronto is different. I had heard not one word about The Wife prior to the screening...it could have been one of many films cast aside once audiences got a look at it and dismissed it. Instead, immediately after the screening, bloggers and critics leaped to announce that this was a huge achievement for Close, and she could possibly win an Oscar for it. The reaction seemed fully wedded to what they'd seen on screen, not what they'd gone in expecting. Broader critical response this year, when the general release came, is another matter: at that point, the narrative was fully in effect, and much of the publicity and the reviews probably were the result of being marinated in that expectation. But last year, it seemed spontaneous. And I simply can't comprehend why people had that reaction.

The Julianne Moore/Still Alice situation is analogous. Going into the initial screening, there was zero reason to have any expectation about the film. Julianne Moore had done many movies over the preceding decade, movies in which she was often quite good but the material wasn't awards-friendly; this could easily have been another. It was reaction to what was on-screen that made people suggest Moore could be an Oscar contender -- and, given her long and impressive resume, that quickly gelled into a successful She Must Win narrative.

The difference, for me, is that when I later saw Moore's performance, I could understand why that reaction happened. When I saw Close's the other day, I could not. The only thing I can think of is that Close's work seemed impressive when it came without expectation, but didn't pass muster for those of us who came in anticipating a prize-level performance.

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Re: The Wife

Postby Reza » Wed Sep 26, 2018 8:53 am

Precious Doll wrote:Also, doesn't Peter O'Toole hold to record for the most acting nominations without a win?


Yes

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Re: The Wife

Postby Big Magilla » Wed Sep 26, 2018 7:06 am

Reza wrote:Susan Hayward (on her 5th nod in 1958)
Gregory Peck (on his 5th nod in 1962)
Henry Fonda (on his 2nd nod but 41 years after his first)
Maureen Stapleton (on her 4th nod in 1981)
Shirley MacLaine (on her 5th nod in 1983)
Geraldine Page (on her 8th nod in 1985)
Paul Newman (on his 7th nod in 1986 - would go on to win two more nods later)
Al Pacino (on his 8th nod in 1992)
Susan Sarandon (on her 5th nod in 1995)
Kate Winslet (on her 5th nod in 2008)
Jeff Bridges (on his 5th nod in 2009 - won 2 more nods later)
Julianne Moore (on her 5th nod in 2014)
Leonardo DiCaprio (on his 5th nod in 2015)


Yes, but those winners were either up against weak competition, had something extra going on and/or were the front-runners going into the home stretch.

Hayward - strong precursor winner, representing a social cause (ending capital punishment), known to be the survivor of more than one suicide attempt - toughest competition: Rosalind Russell (4th nomination)

Peck - beloved character - toughest competition: newcomer Peter O'Toole

Fonda - the father of a two-time Best Actress winner known to be gravely ill, in one of his better performances, passed over many times for equally strong performances - toughest competition: previous winner Burt Lancaster

Stapleton - her best big screen performance with absolutely no competition

MacLaine - an iconic performance - toughest competition: Debra Winger as her daughter in the same film

Page - a makeup Oscar for sure, but a highly popular one - toughest competition: Whoopi Goldberg in her film debut

Newman - the most obvious makeup Oscar, albeit one against weak competition - toughest competition: Bob Hoskins

Pacino - the Academy loves handicapped characters - toughest competition: former winner Denzel Washington

Sarandon - playing a real-life person, a chance to make up for passing all those earlier nominated nuns by (Berman, Kerr, Hepburn, etc.) - toughest competition: Emma Thompson, who won for Best Screenplay instead

Winslet - it was widely deemed her time, would have won whether nominated in lead or support as she was campaigned for - toughest competition: Meryl Streep in serious quest of a third win

Bridges - a makeup Oscar in a weak year - toughest competition: first time nominee Colin Firth who won the following year

Moore - a really weak year and a makeup win not only for her but for a character with Alzheimer's disease - toughest competition: former winner Marion Cotillard who won over Julie Christie playing a character with Alzheimer's

DiCaprio - the anticipated winner for a whole year before his film was even released - roughest competition: Michael Fassbender on his second nomination

Close, by comparison, is in a weak spot. Hers is far from the best reviewed performance of the year. She is presumed to be in excellent health and despite her age is capable of giving a far more Oscar worthy performance. Whether she'll have the opportunity no one knows, but as long as the possibility exists she won't win on sentiment alone.
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Re: The Wife

Postby Precious Doll » Wed Sep 26, 2018 6:56 am

Or course some of those wins were subjectively really well deserved anyway like Susan Hayward, Gregory Peck, Maureen Stapleton, Shirley MacLaine, Susan Sarandon & Julianne Moore.

Also, doesn't Peter O'Toole hold to record for the most acting nominations without a win?
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Re: The Wife

Postby Reza » Wed Sep 26, 2018 2:44 am

Whenever an overdue actor finally wins (whether for a worthy performance or one that is sub-par) it is always a very popular victory voted in by the Hollywood community.

Many winners as examples down history:

Susan Hayward (on her 5th nod in 1958)
Gregory Peck (on his 5th nod in 1962)
Henry Fonda (on his 2nd nod but 41 years after his first)
Maureen Stapleton (on her 4th nod in 1981)
Shirley MacLaine (on her 5th nod in 1983)
Geraldine Page (on her 8th nod in 1985)
Paul Newman (on his 7th nod in 1986 - would go on to win two more nods later)
Al Pacino (on his 8th nod in 1992)
Susan Sarandon (on her 5th nod in 1995)
Kate Winslet (on her 5th nod in 2008)
Jeff Bridges (on his 5th nod in 2009 - won 2 more nods later)
Julianne Moore (on her 5th nod in 2014)
Leonardo DiCaprio (on his 5th nod in 2015)

This year Robert Redford is in a similar position as Henry Fonda - a popular and respected actor who could finally win after his first nod 45 years ago.

Both Katharine Hepburn (her 2nd and 4th wins) and Meryl Streep (her 3rd win) were popular victories as these wins came after big gaps.

Now Glenn Close is in a situation where she is considered to be overdue. Let's see if she wins or instead goes the route of Thelma Ritter, Deborah Kerr and Richard Burton.

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Re: The Wife

Postby Uri » Wed Sep 26, 2018 1:07 am

Mister Tee wrote:I simply don't get what persuaded critics and bloggers to react so strongly to the performance last year


Once the Oscar narrative was set, and in this case it seemed to happen when people learned what the premise of the film was and the fact that Close, highly respected yet Oscar free, had a leading role in a "serious" film. The actual performance became secondary, still the canonizing of it is required in order to build up that said Oscar narrative. It happened in the past with Geraldine Page (with what was a subpar performance) or Susan Sarandon (a good, but not THAT good one).

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Re: The Wife

Postby Greg » Tue Sep 25, 2018 10:06 pm

What is ironic is that they will not be awarding the Nobel Literature Prize this year.
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Re: The Wife

Postby Mister Tee » Tue Sep 25, 2018 8:09 pm

I'd avoided this thread prior to seeing the movie, but a friend had told me he thought it was "awful", so my expectation-level was significantly down going in. I couldn't rise to the bile-level that both he and dws express (except regarding the Christian Slater performance -- that was dire)...but I do think it's a pretty thin movie, and I'm kind of amazed it got the reception it did at Toronto last year, and from critics in general release.

SPOILERS

Basically, it's an anecdote blown up to full-length -- the guy feted with the Literature Nobel is a bit of a Milli Vanilli, with his wife doing most of the actual writing (though the film is rather muddled on this: sometimes seeming to say it's a collaboration, other times suggesting it's all her and he's stealing the glory). The film takes forever to finally reveal this deception, although I think a lot of us at least half guessed or assumed it far earlier than the final unveiling. And it doesn't do all that much with it, since, almost immediately after, the Jonathan Pryce character has a fatal heart attack and the film is soon over.

There were a lot of ways this subject could have been explored with more nuance. As dws says, the film implies that the one brief exchange with Elizabeth McGovern was enough to put the Close character permanently in the background -- even though, at the time of that scene, Harper Lee and Sylvia Plath, for example, were having novels published. It would have been more interesting if the film had suggested the Pryce character's dominance over her (seeing they began as professor/teacher) was what cowed her. Or if, at any point in their life together, they were tempted to come forward and reveal the truth -- it's not as if collaborative effort would have been that big a scandal by, say, the 70s or early 80s; by then, critical commitment to their output would have been so undeniable, it would have been more a novelty than cause for excommunication. If, say, the Close character had broached this possibility, and the Pryce character balked, that would have been a dramatic situation -- and whatever outcome was achieved would have told us something about each of them. There was also, as Uri notes, opportunity to deal with how knowing the truth would affect the dynamic with the son (who, Close tells us, takes little encouragement from literary praise given by his mother, when, in reality, that should have been most important to him).

But we get none of that. The film seems happy to deal with the central situation in as one-dimensional, flat a way as possible; they apparently consider this more than enough content to support an entire film (and, judging by response, they've convinced many). They also probably feel that, in so doing, they've produced some sort of feminist document. Which is...questionable. It seems to me the only way they really achieve that is by constantly shooting Close in reaction shots (culminating in that spotlight at the Nobel dinner -- which eerily recalls, for me, the light on Close in the stands during The Natural). It doesn't feel, dramatically, like it's Close's movie, until near the end of the running time (Pryce, if anyone, seems more dominant), but the film keeps insisting, visually, that it has been hers all along.

This visual highlighting has also presumably led to the Oscar campaign that has given this film the box-office life it has. I simply don't get what persuaded critics and bloggers to react so strongly to the performance last year (and dws is right: had the studio rushed the opening, she'd have been swamped by the McDormand/Ronan/Hawkins triumvirate). I know there was some question whether Julianne Moore deserved her Still Alice award in absolute terms, but I don't think many denied it was a strong, attention-getting performance. Close, by contrast, is fine here (as she often is), but, until her final tirade against Pryce, I didn't see anything resembling an Oscar scene. And I thought the filmmakers -- the writer especially -- even undercut that by having her so quickly transition to Loyal Helpmate tending to sick husband. How much more interesting that scene could have been had Close at first been resistant -- "Don't try to get me back on your side, pulling this sick act" -- and only slowly realizing it was genuine and dire. THAT would have been an Oscar scene. As it is, I think the primary rationale for Close winning at this point is, people feel her career rates a prize, this is the closest to a major role she's had in a long time, and how many other chances will she have? But in terms of, yeah, THIS is a performance that should win an Oscar...god help me, I could see the thinking behind Gary Oldman's (undeserved) wine better than I can here.

Two small things: 1) The most interesting part of the movie was seeing the interior machinations of the Nobel experience (though, would anyone really want to be awakened from a sound sleep by cherubs singing Santa Lucia?) 2) Bad enough they showed that cheesy, clearly toy airplane to indicate the flight to Stockholm...did they really think it was a good idea to reprise it as a closing shot?

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Re: The Wife

Postby Reza » Mon Sep 17, 2018 6:38 am

I would rather see Glenn Close win her Oscar for Sunset Blvd (if they ever get round to filming it) than for this piffle.

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Re: The Wife

Postby Uri » Mon Sep 17, 2018 3:51 am

A very good take, DWS. If this film was a person, I'd say it lacked any shred of self awareness. It's a schlocky melodrama believing itself to be a hoity toity Grand Drama. Had it embraced its sclockiness, or celebrated this sensationalist nature (IT'S THE WIFE WHO WROTE IT - dah, HE DIES THE DAY HE WAS AWARDED - as if) and was made into a self reflecting piece a-la Almodobar or Hayes it might have worked. Or it could have been made into a high brow (good old) Allen comedy (Philip Roth was actually the ultimate WASP woman!) There are interesting themes here to explore - gender roles,what's being an artistic offspring of a successful artist like and most of all, the nature of the artistic voice, could there really be a separation between what one writes about and the way one does it (the content vs. form debate) - Price is not only editing Close's writing, it's his life she's writing about. Or even just a sincere, matter of fact account of a very out of the ordinary happening (getting a Nobel prize) - you know, a smallish life-is-disappointing kind of European drama.

But no, again it's all about making the most cliched, "proven" choices. For example, in a way, it's the same film as another, recent, bad film - Fences. The Wife should have been, you know, about the wife, about this unique female character in unique circumstances. As a young woman she's portrayed to be a non sentimental judge of literary writing - she's not afraid to put her prospect spouse in his artistic place. She spent her life frustratingly in the dark, keeping the most significant aspect of her being hidden. Yet in the "present" she's Viola Davis - Earth Mama mediating between her critical husband and her please-love-me-daddy son. Would it kill them to make her the harder, harsher, cut-to-the-chase parent and her shallow, crowd pleasing husband the good-cup vying for his children's affection? It would make the son revealing the truth far more complex and rewarding. But no, it must follow the most contrived patterns. A really bad film.

Close is technically ok, I guess. So what?


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