Janet and I watched “The Wife” the other night. It was the last of the movies nominated at different levels for Academy Awards we hadn’t seen.
I must say I was somewhat perplexed. I sat in admiration of Glenn Close, who was as masterful as she has been in so many of her other roles. The particular character she depicted was deeply textured and Close channeled her very well. No issues there.
The problem was the fundamental premise of the movie. Apparently, unless I am missing something, Glenn Close portrays a character who was and remained far more talented as a writer than her Professor husband and ended up, over the years, not just editing but actually ghost writing all of the major works for which he was credited resulting in a Nobel Prize for Literature to him. In one poignant scene, she dutifully looked on, while he thanked her from the dais for her “support” over the years.
Apparently, according to the plot, she played the role as the silent force behind the man as a result of some conversation she shared with a character played by Elizabeth McGovern who tells her that a writer needs to be read and, in a man’s world, for a book to be read, it has to get by the men who collectively will destin her books to the dusty shelves of university alumni libraries.
I sat there scratching my head. Really? Is that what this movie is really all about?
The movie, partially set in its early years when Close’s character is attending Smith College, was in 1958. Yes, 1958. It is as if the directors, producers, writers, and script writers for the movie parachuted into 1958 with some “women won’t make it in a man’s world” mentality – apparently completely oblivious to the landscape of published literature written by women over the prior centuries.
They somehow must not have been aware of Jane Austen (1775 – 1817), Emily Bronte (1818 – 1848), Virginia Wolfe (1882 – 1941), Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886), Zora Neale Hurston (1891 – 1960), Louise May Alcott (1832 – 1888), Mary Shelley (1707 – 1851), Gertrude Stein (1874 – 1946), Maya Angelou (1928 – 2014), Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811 – 1896), Agatha Christie (1890 – 1976), and literally thousands of female writers who have painted the canvas of literature for centuries and had millions of their books published, sold and read by men and women alike.
I just don’t get it. It was an interesting drama and well-acted. But its fundamental premise was so intensely flawed that I don’t honestly know how the movie got made. Why not choose another profession, or occupation or industry: Wall Street, for example?
But was writing a man’s turf in 1958? No serious review of literature would support that. Is writing a man’s turf today? Not even a cursory skimming of the New York Times’ Best Seller List or Amazon’s Best Sellers would imply that. What were the movie’s producers going after – a quick buck or some “Me Too” moment? Who knows; but it’s appropriate that this particular movie be destined for the dust bin of pandering irrelevance.