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Laura Bambrey Books

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Monday, 11 February 2019

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer: Film vs Book Review and Giveaway

I’ve always found it fascinating how a screenwriter (or team of screenwriters) can take the many hundreds of a pages of a book, with all its complex innings and outings and twistings and turnings of plot and character- and turn them into a film that makes sense. And if you’re lucky, a film that not only tells the same story as the book, but is able to remain true to the original spirit of the story- somehow distilling the essence of hours of reading down into and hour or two of watching.

When I agreed to do a comparison review of book versus film to celebrate the DVD release of THE WIFE - I was expecting to have reams and reams of differences between the two to discuss... but, it turns out, this is one of those rare beasts where the film really does capture the characters and sentiments of the book beautifully.

This is no mean feat in a story that relies almost entirely on the nuances of two characters - Joan Castleman, the eponymous wife - and Joe, her husband. Without giving any spoilers, let’s take a little look at the few differences there are between the two.

In terms of plotting, there are probably two main changes. Firstly - the Helsinki literary prize which Joe is honoured with in the book is changed to the Nobel prize for the film. Though making very little difference in terms of the ebb and flow of the plot, it does change a nuance to Joe’s character. In the book - he knows that the Nobel is beyond his reach, this is as far as he is likely to reach.

The second main change, and actually something that has a larger effect on the overall telling of the story- is that in the book, Joe and Joan travel to the prize giving without any of their three children in tow. In the film, the couple’s adult son, David, accompanies them, and much of the minutiae of the plot is taken up with him seeking his famous father’s approval for his own writing attempts. In the book, David’s character is revealed in flashbacks- and proves to be just as needy, but a lot darker and more troubled.

In terms of character portrayal, I felt Jonathan Price captured the immature, needy, self absorbed Joe to a tee. Harry Lloyd as the younger Joe also excelled as the ambitious, narcissistic young writer.

Glen Close as Joan? Oh Glen, you are amazing, what can I say? She played Joan beautifully. The slight difference in the direction the film took was that the Joan of the film seemed to be more understanding, and slower to come to the turning point of having enough of putting up with her husband’s many indiscretions, annoying self-absorption and of course, living with their shared secret. The Joan of the book is already at that turning point, but in the film, we see her discover it on the screen.

I highly recommend both the book, for its dense story about two lives that would have been so vastly different if lived separately, and the film for its beautiful and sensitive portrayal of such complex characters, and the cracks in marriage after so many years. This is an incredible story that spans just a few days, as well as telling the history of two lifetimes.

I have a book, DVD and bookmark bundle to give away - if you’d like to win, please enter using the raffle copter form below.

1 comment:

  1. Loved this film but haven't read the book yet. My favourite book-film adaptation might be either Wonder or The Reader... or The Hunger Games ��

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