The best, perhaps the only reason to see “The Artist’s Wife” is Lena Olin, an actor unable to give a poor performance. As Claire, however, the staunch wife of the title, even Olin is unable to recapture that luscious portrayal of a former artist who has put aside her own talents to allow those of her husband.
As the gorgeous maid of Richard (a pleasantly tetchy Bruce Dern), a famous painter, Claire runs errands and fills the refrigerator in their Hamptons home with healthy produce. But Richard is becoming oblivious and inappropriate with his art students, his crust exploding in temper tantrums and the canvases of an upcoming exhibition looming accusingly unfinished. Her Alzheimer’s diagnosis sends Claire to New York City to persuade Richard’s daughter Angela (Juliet Rylance) – a resentful single mother – to come to terms with her ailing father.
Stuffed with awkward metaphors (like Richard’s belief that the foundations of their house are cracking), “The Artist’s Wife” nonetheless poses a rather interesting question: Could Richard’s illness ultimately demand less from Claire than her art? And as she rents a studio, pulls out her brushes, and hooks up with Angela’s babysitter (Avan Jogia), she’s like a prisoner who has been unexpectedly granted early release.
Thanks to the intricacies of Olin’s performance – and Dern’s acid bite – “The Artist’s Wife,” directed by Tom Dolby, feels less about dementia and more about the cost of nurturing another’s artistic vision. And if Dolby had unleashed Claire’s awakening, and followed her to a less slavish and expected finale, he might have produced a more interesting movie than this.
The artist’s wife
Noted A. You do not hire Lena Olin or put her in bikini underwear. Duration: 1 hour 34 minutes. In select theaters, virtual theaters and available for rent or purchase on iTunes, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators. Please review the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies in theaters.