* * * * ½
(Oscar caliber performances, absorbing story)
Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce play Joan and Joe Castleman in this absorbing film that gives us faith in the ability of writers, directors and actors to create the near-perfect film.
The film opens with the aging couple being awakened in the middle of the night to learn that Joe has won the coveted Nobel Prize for literature. Off they go to Stockholm with their adult son to participate in the elaborate ceremonies.
On the surface, theirs looks like the ideal marriage: a brilliant writer who has been supported fully by a loving, caring wife. Flashbacks tell us how they met, fell in love, married and had two children. Close's daughter, Annie Stark, plays her character during those younger years.
We learn just how supportive Joan was during Joe's first novel, when he is suffering from writer's block and through the years as she watched over him like a mother hen, literally the "woman behind her man.”
Theirs is certainly a close relationship. We slowly learn a few deep, dark secrets and begin to sympathize with Joan who has given in to her own talents as a writer to be a "King-Maker.” Joan's abilities as a writer take a back seat to her husband's, and she soon abandons all hope of the literary world paying any attention to a female writer.
While they agree that "a writer needs to write,” Joe says it all when he says, "Yes, but a writer also needs to be read."
Christian Slater plays a writer who is determined to write Joe's biography, pushing himself on Joan and her son to tell their private stories and thoughts.
To tell you more would be to spoil the surprises that await you in this marvelously written and acted drama. Close gives the performance of her life. We were mesmerized by her expressions and reactions to what is going on around her and cheer for her when all of her hidden frustrations and resentments come to the surface.
As great as Close is, we were also impressed with veteran actor Jonathan Pryce as the ambitious writer who at times doesn't have a clue what he has done to his long-suffering wife's self-esteem.
Rated R with some profanity and sexual references. Don't let that stop you from seeing this brilliant movie. The movie is at the Avon.