Today’s Sunday Book Review is a little different. Today I’m reviewing a movie I only recently watched – The Wife. The movie – taken from the book by Meg Wolitzer, left me with lots to think about – especially since the main characters – husband and wife, are both writers – only the storyline depicts the husband as the worthy literary master.
I’m typically, not a ‘watch the movie first and then read the book kind of gal’, rather, quite the opposite. If I’ve already read a book and loved it, I will absolutely see the movie, and of course scrutinize the writing as I watch, (bad habit), and hope the movie will do a good book justice. I’m sure we’ve all encountered a box office let down after waiting in anticipation for the movie version only to be disappointed. So, being as I missed out reading the book before the movie came to my movie channel, starring Glenn Close, I had to watch it.
Now a major motion picture starring Glenn Close in her Golden Globe–winning role!
One of bestselling author Meg Wolitzer’s most beloved books—an “acerbically funny” (Entertainment Weekly) and “intelligent…portrait of deception” (The New York Times).
The Wife is the story of the long and stormy marriage between a world-famous novelist, Joe Castleman, and his wife Joan, and the secret they’ve kept for decades. The novel opens just as Joe is about to receive a prestigious international award, The Helsinki Prize, to honor his career as one of America’s preeminent novelists. Joan, who has spent forty years subjugating her own literary talents to fan the flames of his career, finally decides to stop.
Important and ambitious, The Wife is a sharp-eyed and compulsively readable story about a woman forced to confront the sacrifices she’s made in order to achieve the life she thought she wanted. “A rollicking, perfectly pitched triumph…Wolitzer’s talent for comedy of manners reaches a heady high” (Los Angeles Times), in this wise and candid look at the choices all men and women make—in marriage, work, and life.
My 5 Star Review:
I can only imagine how good this book must be because the movie was so well done with Glenn Close playing an amazing and emotional role and winning the Golden Globe Award for that role as ‘the wife’.
How long can a sham go on?
I love a good movie with deep characters and stories that make me question how I’d react if what I was watching had happened to me – especially when it involves writers. The movie was engaging from the get-go and the plot thickened at a comfortable pace leading to the deep-seated issue and question: What would you do if you spent a lifetime helping your spouse be praised in the literary community, when YOU are the actual one doing THEIR writing for them and the day comes that a literary award is bestowed to your spouse for your writing. It certainly made me stop and think as a writer.
Yes, it’s a fictional movie, but certainly gives us pause. And no, I personally couldn’t do it, writing under the shadow of someone else to give them the credit for – spouse or no spouse. I should think if Joan chose to be a ghostwriter, there would be no story. But this is a story.
The story begins with the seemingly happy middle-aged couple – Joan and Joe, elated after just receiving the news that Joe has been selected as the next winner of the International Helsinki Award to honor his work as a novelist. The story progresses along inviting us into the personal lives of the couple, the friction between Joe and his son who is also a writer desperately seeking his father’s approval, and the glamorous travel and dinner parties that come along with Joe’s new elevated fame, leaving Joan feeling slighted by Joe’s escalation to fame and the rising anger within that Joan struggles with because of.
Earlier in the movie, Joan holds back her hurt and accompanies her husband to all the limelight events in his honor, but her face and actions clearly demonstrate she’s not as happy for Joe as she earlier on led us to believe. We are made to think perhaps she’s jealous of the attention he’s getting, and we don’t find out till midway through the movie what is really irking Joan.
Resentment trumps love when we discover through Joan’s flashbacks, Joan’s earlier life, taking us back to Joan’s college days in English class where she fell in love with her professor – Joe. We learn that Joan had all the makings of a literary scholar, but she was young and enamored by Joe, and somehow fell into becoming the writer of Joe’s books because she was ultimately, the better writer and wanted to help her now husband succeed. The years turned into decades with this undercover operation, until Joe receives this award, which becomes the final blow to what Joan can no longer accept.
I’ll end the review there, as I don’t want to give away the end. But I put myself in Joan’s shoes as a writer and couldn’t conceive myself putting out a lifetime of my work under the name of anybody else. Could you?