The Wife

on August 16, 1996 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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   A case of one step forward, two steps back, filmmaker Tom Noonan's followup to his savvy debut, "What Happened Was...," tries to wring ew spins on New Age healers and their patients but succumbs to the emotional excesses of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"--which it too strongly resembles.
   In the leads, Julia Hagerty and Noonan are married medical practitioners whose premises are invaded by neurotic Cosmo (Wallace Shawn) and his caustic stripper wife (Karen Young). At first, the octors try to accommodate Cosmo, but he soon begins to turn on them, eventually provoking schisms in the doctors' marriage. Despite a dramatically strong first half, "The Wife" does no more than till familiar soil, including other cinematic evocations of "The New Age" and "What About Bob?"--usually as a pale copy. Also, Shawn and Hagerty have assumed their personae here before. Much more interested and provocative are Noon and Young, whose tentative relationship hints at the unique path "The Wife" should have taken.    Starring Julie Hagerty, Tom Noonan and Wallace Shawn. Directed and written by Tom Noonan. Produced by Scott Macauley and Robin O'Hara. An Artistic License release. Drama. Rated R for language and some nudity. Running time: 100 min.
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