The Artist's Wife Review - Compelling Character Driven Performances, Captivating

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The Artist's Wife, from Greyshack Films and Stand Releasing, presents the story of life, art, love, the ravages of time, change, and hope as certainty spins out of control and replaces it with a future of uncertainty.

Directed by Tom Dolby, The Artist's Wife stars, Bruce Dern, Lene Olin, Juliet Rylance, Stefanie Powers, Tonya Pinkens, Avan Jogia and Ravi Cabot-Conyers.

The story begins with an on-camera interview with Richard Smythson, played by Bruce Dern, and his wife, Claire, played by Lena Olin, who are enjoying the peak of his fame as a contemporary American artist. As the camera fades it catches a hint of sorrow in her eyes.


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Fast forward to the future, we are driving through East Hampton, a small enclave of wealth and talent on the east end of Long Island, and we arrive at the home of Richard and Claire, a meticulous, well managed home, with every item in its place. Her quiet life, of managing the home, supporting her husband's career, not unlike millions of dedicated spouses, appears to be wearing thin.

Richard is cantankerous. More than an eccentric artist he is rude and mean. His lifelong success and age, he believes, affords him the right to speak without a filter. No matter the cost. Today, the object of his frustration is Claire, the one constant in his life, as he prepares new paintings for his final show.

As the story follows Claire, she is explaining to a doctor symptom's, she believes, which explain his moodiness, erratic behaviors and general forgetfulness. Unfortunately, the doctor returns with a different diagnosis and we learn Richard is in the early stages of dementia.


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His fight against the disease, against the loss of his own life, the loss of the future, of works he never painted, of people he never knew, of moments that will never be create a push pull as he wages war within himself and takes it out on everyone else.

As his memory and behavior deteriorate, the holidays are approaching, and Claire decides she is up to the challenge of trying to reconnect him with his estranged daughter and grandson from a previous marriage, Angela, played by Juliet Rylance. Reaching out is met with the same reinforced wall of frustration that she sees in her husband.

As she is in Manhattan, she gravitates to the gallery where Richard will show his work. A night drinking at a gallery opening with Liza Caldwell, played by Tonya Pinkins, Richard's representation, which is where we find out Claire was also a well-known artist, gifted, talented, young and beautiful, when she was swept away and married.


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Using the jitney has left Claire stuck in the city and her judgement is a bit impaired, she returns to Angela's hoping to spend the night, which opens a tiny window of possibility.

This is where the film shifts with Richard, Claire and Angela each allowing for the possibility of change.

I enjoyed The Artist's Wife for more than the surface value, more than the talented performances, the strong story line, and even more than the cinematography. The film presents a dichotomy, as it pulls back the layers and allows a glimpse into the artist's world, where the eccentric artist lives and the reality of life when art doesn't consume and more when one pauses the pursuit.

The film presented an authentic view of the creative process for many great contemporary painters, the need for seclusion, for avant-garde style, and even a lifestyle that is unusual and matches that portrayal with the glimpses of retrospectives that are unconventional and innovative.


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The Long Island cinematography is visually stunning as nature is presented as affecting, calming, and as artistic inspiration.

The talented cast including Stefanie Powers as the progressive artist Ada Risi, Avan Jogia as Danny and Ravi Cabot Conyers as Gogo, each added strong moments, along with Bruce Dern, Lena Olin, and Juliet Rylance who all gave strong character driven performance.

Solid, authentic performances, visually stunning, The Artist's Wife, originally scheduled for a pre-pandemic release, has since been tentatively scheduled for an early summer release. See it.

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