THE WIFE (1994) [Feature]

USA (MIFF 1995 )
Director: Tom Noonan

The second film by masterful storyteller and versatile artist, Tom Noonan, the American independent who won the Grand Jury Prize at last year's Sundance Film Festival with his debut feature What Happened Was.

A self-contained, hilarious and jittery yarn, The Wife is confined to an isolated New England farmhouse one crisp winter evening. New Age therapist couple lack (Noonan himself) and wife Rita are paid an unannounced visit by their patient, Cosmo, and his rambunctious spouse Arlie. Over dinner and the ensuing night, the lives of all parties involved unravel as the unso­phisticated Arlie pokes holes in the stuffy intellectualism and composed superiority cultivated by her unwilling hosts.

Superb casting and insightful direction allows the terminally neurotic Wallace Shawn (My Din­ner With Andre, Vanya on 42nd Street) the scope to turn in yet another quirky, hyperkinetic perfor­mance as Cosmo, the bumbling 'seeker of truth'. Joe DeSalvo's exceptional cinematography has the viewer buzzing around what could have been a claustrophobic set like an eavesdropping insect and twitching with tension as, in the increasingly charged atmosphere, the fragile Rita attempts to keep proceedings civil in the face of Arlie's alcohol-fuelled declamations and debunk­ing of all that the therapists hold sacred. With its heady realism, Pinter-esque dialogue and sabre sharp insights, it is what is left unsaid that makes The Wife a truly intriguing experience.

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