Monday, October 27, 2014

14 Movie Wives Who Died To Make Drama For Their Movie Husbands

Because a man isn’t complete without a woman to feel sad about, but spend minimal time with on screen.

Leonard's Wife, Memento (2000)

Played by: Jorja Fox

Christopher Nolan, whose Interstellar is opening soon, is unquestionably the movie king of the sacrificial wife — a figure who mainly exists in flashbacks and visions. She's there to cause angst in our hero in the midst of his crime-solving or professional-killing or revolution-leading or whatever else he's up to. She's usually not so much a character herself as a living psychological burden, shot in gauzy light. She triggers stories, but never really gets to be a part of them (on account of being dead and all).

Nolan's first use of the trope turned up in his chronologically flipped breakout Memento, in which Leonard (Guy Pearce) goes on a quest to find the man who murdered his unnamed spouse. That wife, played by CSI's Jorja Fox, shows up bathed in golden, late-afternoon sun in memories. It's a standard dead wife portrayal, serving as a reminder that we're seeing the character through a subjective lens. But to the film's credit, that idealized portrayal is undermined by revelations late in the movie that let the audience in on a more complicated truth.

Gauziness level: Medium

Newmarket Films

Helen, John Wick (2014)

Played by: Bridget Moynahan

Unlike most other late spouses on this list, Helen didn't die because of something her love, retired hitman John Wick (Keanu Reeves), did or failed to do — she passed away thanks to an unspecified but photogenic illness, freeing him from guilt. Still, John spends most of the movie killing Russian gangsters as an extended way of mourning her, and she's depicted in her few scenes at maximum idealized gauziness. And, even as she was dying, she found time to buy her hubby an adorable, equally doomed puppy to keep him company, which makes her quite possibly the most saintly member of the Dead Wives Club.

Gauziness level: High


Dolores, Shutter Island (2010)

Played by: Michelle Williams

Sometimes the dead wife needs to be saved from baddies, and sometimes she needs to be saved from herself. Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio), one of two U.S. Marshals investigating a patient's disappearance from the Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane, is haunted by visions of the wife he believes was killed in a fire by an arsonist who was imprisoned on the island. What actually happened, as hinted by Dolores' perpetually damp hair, was even darker, if also practically a Victorian hysteria tale that makes the film's atmosphere of heightened dread a little eye-roll worthy in retrospect.

Gauziness level: Medium

Paramount Pictures

Mal, Inception (2010)

Played by: Marion Cotillard

Uber-Dead Wife, Mal, haunts Inception as its antagonist, its guilty conscience, and its primary victim. In his second spousal appearance on this list, Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, master manipulator of dreams and grieving widower. He feels responsible for Mal's death, which is why she's become a self-defeating specter, showing up as a ghost from his subconscious to sabotage his work. Always looking perfect, Mal is another figure who exists mainly in memory in the film, and distorted memory at that — whatever the real Mal was like, the version that torments Cobb is more a reflection of his own feelings of regret rather than her actual existence.

Gauziness level: High

Warner Bros.

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