THE WIFE (2017)

The Wife poster

SHORT VERSION

A wife questions her life choices as she travels to Stockholm to see her husband receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.

MEDIUM VERSION

Joan Castleman (Glenn Close) is the wife of Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce), who has just been awarded the Nobel prize for literature. Joan stands dutifully at his side while everyone calls him a genius, but a biographer, Nathaniel Bone (Christian Slater) confronts Joan with a theory: that she is the actual writer of all of Joe’s great works. Flashbacks confirm this is true: Joan, in the sixties, felt there was no way she could get published or read as a female writer, so she offered to write and let Joe take the credit. In the present, it all becomes too much to bear, and after the Nobel prize ceremony, she tells Joe she is leaving him, tired of the charade, his affairs, and watching him take all the credit. They have a huge fight during which Joe has a heart attack, and after asking Joan to tell him she loves him, he dies. Afterward, Joan tells Nathaniel that she will sue him if he publishes his theory, and vows to tell her children the truth.

LONG VERSION

In 1992 in Connecticut, Joan Castleman (Glenn Close) can’t sleep because her husband, Joe (Jonathan Pryce) is too nervous to sleep since they’re expecting a call from the Nobel committee. The call finally comes, and they learn that Joe has indeed won the Nobel for literature. Thrilled, they jump up and down on the bed. Soon after, at a party held on Joe’s behalf, their children Susannah (who is very pregnant) and David (Max Irons) arrive. Joan tells David she loved his short story, but Joe still hasn’t read it, which frustrates David. While giving a speech, Joe says that without Joan he is nothing.Joan, Joe, and David fly to Europe for the ceremony. On the plane, they are approached by Nathaniel Bone (Christian Slater), who wants to write Joe’s biography. Joe is extremely annoyed with him and refuses to give him permission. When they land, they are greeted by the Nobel organizers, and Joe is assigned a young female photographer named Linnea. All the attention makes Joe a little agitated, and he asks Joan to listen to his heart since he’s had heart issues before.

In flashback, we see Smith College, 1958. Young student Joan (Annie Starke) meets with her Professor, young Joe (Harry Lloyd). Joe is extremely impressed with her writing but thinks it needs a little work – he pushes her to go deeper with the characters. He asks her to babysit for his young child since he and his wife have plans. When she goes over to do so, he and his wife are yelling at each other. In his desk, she finds a walnut with a love note to his wife written on it.

In the present, the Castlemans attend more Nobel events. Joe tells people there that his wife doesn’t write. Afterward, in the car, David and Joe get into another huge fight over David’s sulky behavior. Joe admits he thinks David’s story has potential but isn’t good enough yet. David leaves, deciding to skip the rest of the day’s activities. Joan tells Joe that some kind words wouldn’t hurt, that “everyone needs approval.” She asks Joe not to thank her in his Nobel acceptance speech that she doesn’t want to be thought of as the long-suffering wife.

In flashbacks, Professor Castleman is impressed with Joan’s improvements to her story, believing it to be about his wife. She denies this, but then they kiss. They go to a reading by female author Elaine Mozell (Elizabeth McGovern), who Joan admires. But Elaine tells Joan not to be a writer. Joan is horrified, but Elaine says that no one will read books by a female author.

In the present, Joan is growing exhausted of all the events and takes an afternoon to herself. Nathaniel approaches her and invites her to have a drink. He tells her he’s aware of Joe’s many affairs and pushes her for a comment – Joan calmly tells him she is not a victim, and that she won’t be painted that way. He tells her he found her writing from college, and that they were very good. Joan insists she has no regrets about giving it up. Nathaniel then tells him to read some of Joe’s earliest work, and that it was fairly bad. He says that HER original writing reads the most like Joe’s current-day writing. He implies that Joan is the real writer of Joe’s many works, and urges her to speak out. She calmly denies all of it.

Meanwhile, Joe flirts with Linnea. He goes in to kiss her but his blood pressure medication goes off, and he decides to go back to his room. He writes her a little note on a walnut and then goes back. When Joan returns, Joe gets angry with her for going out and drinking and smoking – and then Joan finds the walnut. She gets angry with him for his constant philandering, and the fight continues until a phone call interrupts – Susannah had her baby. Joan and Joe are so thrilled they drop the fight. Afterward, they reunite with David. Joe tries to give David constructive criticism on his writing, and after they leave, Nathaniel approaches David.

In 1960 New York, Joan is a secretary at a publishing house. When an opportunity arises, she gets them to agree to read Joe’s book, “The Walnut.” But when Joan reads it first, she thinks the book never comes alive, and begins to give him feedback on it. Angry at the critique, Joe tells Joan he is leaving her. Joan begs him not to leave her, and he calms down. They agree the book story is compelling, but not the writing. Joan offers to “fix” it. After Joan’s fix, the publishers want to publish the book. The two jump up and down on the bed in their tiny apartment.

Before the Nobel ceremony, David, furious, tells his parents Nathaniel told him his theory and told him that Joan confirmed it. Joan steadfastly denies that she wrote the books, but David remembers his mom going away into his father’s office and locking herself away in there. David cries uncontrollably. In 1968 Connecticut, the Castleman’s live in a large beautiful house in Connecticut. Joan writes books while Joe takes care of their young children.

At the Nobel ceremony, Joe dedicates his entire speech to Joan, which humiliates her. Disgusted, she flees the ceremony. In the car back to the hotel, Joan tells Joe she’s leaving him and wants a divorce – she can’t do it anymore. He tries to give her the Nobel prize, but she refuses, saying she doesn’t want it. At the hotel, Joe tries to get her to reconsider, wanting to save the marriage, but the two descend into a massive argument, everything coming to the forefront – the lies, the writing, who the real talent is, the affairs – all of it comes up. Joan can’t take the humiliation of standing at his side that his wife doesn’t write. Suddenly, Joe has a heart attack. Joan calls for help, and as Joseph lays on the bed, he asks her if she loves him. She says yes, and he says “you’re such a good liar.” Help arrives, but they are unable to save Joe.

On the plane home, Nathaniel apologizes to Joan for her loss. She tells him that if he writes about his theory, she will take him to court. David overhears, and Joan tells him when they get home she’s going to tell him and his sister everything.

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