The Wife

Front Row at the Movies by Shirrel Rhoades

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Writing about the rules of literary fiction, author Meg Wolitzer observed: “When I refer to so-called women’s fiction, I’m not applying the term the way it’s sometimes used: to describe a certain type of fast-reading novel, which sets its sights almost exclusively on women readers and might well find a big, ready-made audience. I’m referring to literature that happens to be written by women. But some people, especially some men, see most fiction by women as one soft, undifferentiated mass that has little to do with them.”

The point she’s making is that her novel “The Wife” was not intended to be a quick beach read, but rather something more serious with a message for both genders.

The novel opens, “The moment I decided to leave him, the moment I thought, enough, we were thirty-five thousand feet above the ocean, hurtling forward but giving the illusion of stillness and tranquility. Just like our marriage.”

You can expect the same impact from the same-named film version of Wolitzer’s novel.

Here, a 64-year-old wife questions her life choices as she travels to Stockholm with her husband, a noted writer about to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. It’s about a talented writer forced to abandon her creative life to minister to her husband’s needs.

As Publisher’s Weekly describes the story, “There is no cheap, gratifying Hollywood ending to make it all better. Instead, Wolitzer’s crisp pacing and dry wit carry us headlong into a devastating message about the price of love and fame.”

The cast is suitably serious: Glenn Close as the wife. Jonathan Pryce as her talented husband. Max Irons and Alix Sophie Wilton Regan as the son and daughter. And Christian Slater provides balance as a journalist traveling on the plane with them.

“The Wife” is currently playing at Tropic Cinema.

While offering an on-the-nose satire of the literary world, at heart this is the story of a woman with a gnawing secret.

When the writer gets a phone call saying a major magazine is bumping a story about Bill Clinton to do a piece about him, the parallel between the two couples is unavoidable. The Hollywood Reporter compares the wife to “a certain presidential candidate who struggled to free herself from the shackles of her husband’s stature (and ego).”

“Meg Wolitzer Rides the Feminist Wave,” proclaims a New Yorker headline. “The Wife” fits that pronouncement.

Email Shirrel: srhoades@aol.com

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