We all know the line, “Behind every great man is a great woman”, well here’s the story of unassuming Joan Castleman (Glenn Close) as she travels to Stockholm to see her gregarious husband Joe (Jonathan Pryce) receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Based on Meg Wolitzer’s novel of the same title, I’m told she was meticulous with her research and many of the bizarre scenes around the pomp and circumstance of winning a Nobel Prize are quite accurate. That aside, it’s the family dynamics between the couple and their angry son David (Max Irons) and a pushy wannabe biographer Nathaniel Bone (Christian Slater) that provide the more interesting scenes.
The pace is slow, it’s beautifully shot [mainly in Scotland I hear], and the flashbacks to the early days of their budding romance could have gone wrong but nicely set up the context. Be prepared for a passionless geriatric “sex” scene in the opening minutes that could double as an advertisement for celibacy. Always a lady’s man and guilty of multiple adulteries, we see Joe flirting with Linnea, the very young and sexy photographer assigned to cover his trip. I appreciate you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but it was the reciprocation I found hard to take. They nearly get it together but alas the moment is lost with his beeping watch reminding him to take his blood pressure medication. Not exactly a turn on for a twenty-year-old Swede!
The performances are solid, Glenn Close as the understated wife simmering with repressed rage, Jonathan Pryce as the buffoon husband who needs to be told to even wipe crumbs from his beard, Max Irons as the son desperately seeking approval from his self-obsessed father. While you cannot choose your family, you can choose to spend 99 minutes on this family drama and not regret it while pondering the choices the characters make and the roles they assume given the times. I watched it in our private cinema club but it’s available for anyone to see on Netflix Ireland.
Theatre was my first love. It all started with the One-Act and 3-Act AmDram festivals in our local theatre to get out of the house to smoke cigarettes on school nights. It wasn’t long before I had graduated onto the Class As in the Abbey, Peacock, Project, Tivoli and even more fringe events and locations. It’s physical. Being present with the cast, the crew, the soundscape of mutters, coughs, and gasps from the audience; the dust, the set, the murmur murmur hum before curtain. Pure energy. I can forgive anything — set, direction, costumes, props, performance — except bad writing.
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