The "great man" in question: celebrated novelist Joseph Castleman, who has just won his greatest accolade, a Nobel Prize in Literature. Joan Castleman dutifully suffers her insufferable husband, accompanying him to witness his triumph.
Joan has become accustomed to the shamelessness of her husband (Jonathan Pryce), which reaches all the way back to their coupling in the 1950s (the film's present day is 1992). In flashbacks, we witness the married Professor Castleman's wildly unethical seduction of young Joan while she is his student. Four decades later, Joan has settled into the role of enabler, caretaker, curator and mother-wife to a ceaselessly selfish man-child, the veritable poster boy for believing one's own press. He literally couldn't have done it without Joan, but she very consciously wears a smile (albeit a detached one) and puts forward a kind of regal elegance as a best-defense offense to anyone suspecting she's less than 100 percent on board.
One man proves decidedly suspicious: Biographer Nathaniel Bone (Christian Slater) suspects there's much more than meets the eye when it comes to the Castlemans' marriage, their lifelong arrangement. Over drinks, Bone flatters Joan, gently flirts and attempts to wrest a confession of discontent and more. The dramatic tension in Swedish filmmaker Bj
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