Spoiler alert. If you haven’t watched this movie and intend to watch a great piece of cinema on what it means to live in a marriage, and to fit in with the society, stop reading now. Please watch it, not only for Glenn Close’s phenomenal performance, but also for the movie’s brilliant story-telling.
The web is flooded with videos and movies and what-not about feminism. From outright man bashing to maudlin tell-all tales on ‘reality’ TV. But there isn’t another piece of content on this subject, I have found more dignified and more relatable.
With just one conversation, the movie says everything there is to say, about the plight of women in the era. And that of educated urban women in the most developed nation in the world! When the author tells Close’s character Joan, not to pursue writing as no one would read a book by a female author. Was there a better way to call out the society’s double standards on women, I wonder.
For a large part of the movie, it feels like Joan takes the advice and sticks to being the docile partner of a deeply revered novelist.
Its later revealed how her husband, Joe completely lacked the literary gift and how she had been ghost-writing his books all along.
The final scenes took my breath away. When she finally stands up to him. With as little drama as possible. Just wanting to leave as she couldn’t take another second of the sham that her life had become.
As someone who struggles with confrontation, I could totally relate to her pent up emotions. Her frustration at having spent her life at the writing desk, away from her children, writing book after book, and not being given any credit whatsoever. Not even in the form of a blissful family life. Joe has had a string of affairs all through their marriage. Each time shifting the blame of his adultery on Joan’s literary talent! And like most women doing well in their chosen vocations, she feels apologetic about her skill, and takes her unfaithful, guileful husband back.
I have never been a touchy-feely feminist myself. If anything, I feel terrible about guys who make it to the top, spending their lives honing their craft, only to be defamed by fame-hungry feminazis.
Having said that, this depiction of feminism comes closest to how I feel about the issue. Even at the height of provocation, she wouldn’t give her husband away. Not even to her own kids. Not even posthumously. Her husband had a celebrated life and she wouldn’t let anything cast a shadow on that. But she is determined to walk away from it all. Quietly.
In fact, Joan is insistent on not being portrayed as a victim. “I am much more interesting than that”, she says to the all-too-eager biographer wanting to write a book on Joe. And she squirms at the mention of her name in Joe’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech. She knows it’s not genuine. Not the gratitude. Not the love. It had always been a marriage of convenience for him.
That’s the thing with the kindest and noblest of people. They would go to any extent to make a relationship work, to avoid dissonance. Condoning other people’s indiscretions, over and over. Often at the cost of self-harm. But when they are done, they are done.