Tag: 2017

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

** ½ (out of 4)

WARNING: Some spoilers in review.

Björn Runge’s The Wife concerns an occasion that ought to be happy. It’s the fall of 1992, and Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce), a hugely successful author, learns that he’s won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Naturally, the news leaves him elated; right after receiving the early-morning phone call, he jumps up and down on his bed, shouting “I won the Nobel!” like an eight-year-old. Yet despite her statements to the contrary, Joe’s wife Joan (Glenn Close) never really seems to share in his excitement. Eventually, we learn why: Joe’s “profound” and “groundbreaking” novels were actually all ghostwritten by her.

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Image courtesy of A24.

** ½ (out of 4)

Paul Schrader has had his fair share of ups and downs in his decades-long career as a director-screenwriter. At their best, his works demonstrate a masterful use of technique, and they effectively capture the alienation and pent-up resentment that can drive individuals towards extremism. (Think Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, which Schrader wrote.) At their worst, however, Schrader’s films are too didactic for comfort, undermining themselves with their stubborn insistence on reiterating the same basic messages over and over. (For two characteristic examples of this, see Blue Collar and Affliction, both of which Schrader directed and wrote.)

In some ways, First Reformed constitutes a synthesis of Schrader’s best and worst traits, combining his focus on individual alienation, his stylistic prowess, and his monotonous didacticism to make a work that’s interesting but ultimately flawed.

Reviews - New Releases/Festivals