When the tabloids scream the news that Minister of the Family Duncan Matlock has been caught in an affair with an "escort" girl, no one is more stunned than Flora, his wife. As her husband and the Tory establishment behind... more » him expect, Flora maintains her loyal fašade. But behind her public smiles, she seethes with mounting fury. Employing strange sexual games and covert political tactics, she plots to exact the ultimate revenge against her husband and the system that created him. This powerful, award-winning PBS drama stars Juliet Stevenson (Truly, Madly, Deeply; Bend It Like Beckham), Trevor Eve (In the Name of the Father), and Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting, Grosse Pointe Blank). DVD SPECIAL FEATURES INCLUDE background essay by writer Paula Milne and cast filmographies.
"Splendidly wicked" ?The New York Times
"Smashing!" ?TV Guide
"A true PBS ?Masterpiece?. . . a brilliant, incisive political potboiler"?Los Angeles Times« less
Kendra M. (KendraM) from NASHVILLE, TN Reviewed on 3/14/2008...
We watched the entire three part (though only 187 minutes, I think) movie last night and woke up to the newest political scandal with Eliot Spitzer. How timely!
This is a very good film about Flora, married to the Minister of Family whom espouses family values. Sure enough, the movie starts with Duncan, her husband, coming home with his entourage and having to let his wife know about his one-night stand with another woman, since the press has found out and they are about to be hounded.
Flora is absolutely broken-hearted. And, to make matters worse, nobody seems to show true sympathy to her for her heartbreak-- instead, everybody is concerned about Duncan keeping his position and about the "Party" (suffice it to say this has a definite liberal bias, but it's really not too bad).
Her father is even a creep. Flora comes down in the middle of the night and sees her father (one of the "party's" cronies) and when he begins to let her know how upset he is about Duncan's infidelity, Flora assumes she will be shown some concern. However, the dad is only concerned about himself and his upset is due to his fear that Duncan will go down and that his own future will be ruined. Despicable characters-- all of them!
Anyways, soon Flora receives an anonymous tape with very explicit recordings of some phone sex her husband took part in with the woman he was having an affair with. She soon recognizes that this was no "one-time" fling, but a serious affair that took place over the better part of a year and was very very serious. She begins to really despise her husband, while at the same time hanging on to the bit of love she once had for him. This part of the movie is interesting. It's obvious (to us) that she begins to really hate him-- hate his character and lack thereof. His flaws are completely noticeable-- maybe for the first time to Flora. He lies. He hates gays. He hates the needy. He says what he needs to say for political expediency, and then whispers to Flora how he will get away with breaking the promises he just made a moment before. He's definitely unlikeable.
However, rather than this being a "Let's bash the Conservatives" movie, one of Duncan's staff begins to help Flora plan Duncan's revenge. And, it soon turns out that more of the "Party" start to see the error of Duncan's ways, as well. So, there are definitely a few "honorable" people here, except, really, who is really honorable when the methods are so despicable, even if those methods are the absolute only way to achieve the necessary goals?
So, this becomes a film about morality, too. And, it is confusing, because we've grown to empathize with Flora but even she is capable of deceit. But, her methods are definitely underhanded even though her heart (for everyone but Duncan) is in the right place.
The acting is absolutely superb. Juliet Stevenson is extremely talented and I'm glad to see her in a lead role. Minnie Driver plays the mistress with a perfect British accent. Everyone else was good and the story moved along well, although had it gone a bit faster, I wouldn't have been disappointed.
Part of what is interesting here is the perceived necessity for the politicians' wives to stand by their men after their husbands' infidelities are exposed. We saw it with Hillary Clinton, we've seen it with Jim McGreevey and his wife, we've seen it with Larry Craig and his wife, and now we're seeing it with Elliot Spitzer and his sad-looking wife. These poor women (except for Hillary, I guess, who has her own reasons I suppose for staying)! They are paraded out in public to stand by their men and show support and smile and hold hands, etc., even while the pain is probably still profuse. Personally, I think the women would gain so much more respect by leaving. And, with Hillary, specifically (since she herself is in the public eye), I think her likeability would have gone way up had she left her chronically unfaithful husband behind.
The politican's wife is a force to be reckoned with.
Russell Fanelli | Longmeadow, MA USA | 08/31/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Politician's Wife plays out in three installments, each lasting a little over an hour. This playing time is needed to allow for the intricate plotting of this complex drama. In the first part Flora Matlock, wife of Tory minister and rising star Duncan Matlock, learns that her husband has been unfaithful to her. This infidelity is ironic given that Duncan represents the family in the conservative English government. At first Flora is surprised and angry. We watch as she packs her bags to leave her husband. Before she finishes her packing she gets pressure from all sides to support her husband. She gives in to the manipulations of the men who want to keep Duncan in power. A little later on Flora learns from Duncan's assistant that the affair with an escort girl, Jennifer Cairn, lasted for a year or so. She is given pictures and an audio tape documenting Duncan's infidelity.
In part two Flora, an exceptionally bright and capable woman, plots Duncan's downfall. Whenever she begins to question her motives, she listens to the audio tape to steel her in her resolve. Flora is as clever as Iago in Othello. We marvel at her political astuteness as she makes her plans and lays her traps for her husband, who deserves everything she does to him. In part three we hold our breath as she springs the trap and sets in motion a string of events that should keep all viewers watching closely to see what will happen next.
The Politican's Wife represents the best of television drama. The acting is first-rate by all participants, particularly Juliet Stepenson as Flora, Trevor Eve as Duncan, Ian Bannen, unfortunately now dead, as Sir Donald Frazier, confidant to Flora, and Minnie Driver as the escort girl. A large cast supports these principals superbly.
The story moves quickly and inexorably to the finale. The only mild violence in the plot happens in the bedroom as we watch Flora begin to take control over her wayward husband by playing to his many sexual weaknesses. Duncan is a manipulative villain and Flora is every bit his equal when it comes to scheming. Flora can lie and cheat with the best of the men who surround her.
Is lying ahd cheating what it takes to succeed in government? The Politician's Wife suggests that honesty is for losers and those on the fast track to political power need to learn to manipulate the system to their advantage if they are going to have any chance at success. The Politician's Wife demontrates dramatically that women are not the weaker sex -- quite the contrary. Highly recommended.
A Political Morality Tale for All Times
F. Behrens | Keene, NH USA | 06/01/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of the great revenge stories of all times. Paula Milne has written the script to a three-part miniseries seen not too long ago on Masterpiece Theatre called "The Politician's Wife." The Minister for Family (of all people) is caught in a love nest scandal. And like a certain President's wife of recent memory, his spouse is expected by The Party to stand behind him. Well, she does-and in the most original way possible. As all the Old Boys rally behind this despicable lowlife, the wife uses that very system of disinformation to get back a bit of her own. Just how she does it and with what results I refuse to say, because I want you to savor this jaundiced view of inner-party workings and how they destroy whatever traces of humanity those concerned might have had once. Well, this show is now yours for the viewing on an Acorn Media DVD (AMP 7117), and I suggest you grab it. It is due to appear on July 6, 2004; but I wanted to give you lots of warning. The disgusting conservative minister is played to perfection by Trevor Eve, while the equally evil (but just possibly unwitting bait in the trap) femme fatale is made very believable by Minnie Driver. But the show belongs to Juliet Stevenson as the wife who does what is considered (by men, of course) to be her duty in the most beautiful Iago-like way. My favorite part is the speech she gives to the wives of other conservative politicians, in which she thanks them sincerely for showing her that personal morality and feelings and family and true devotion must all be put aside for the sake of The Party. This Swiftian moment is nearly matched later when she tells someone about how her husband is such an accomplished liar that he has started to believe his own lies-as long as he is still speaking them. Do governments ever really change? In fact, the only sympathetic characters other than the wife (and that is a matter of opinion) are the two children. All the other male characters are smiling, foul Party-beings to whom "conservative" means nothing more than conserving their power and "truth" means nothing more than the most effective lie that will serve their turn. The three episodes have a total running time of 187 minutes and every minute is riveting. True to what television executives think the public wants, we get our usual quota of nipple shots (why do these actresses put up with this?) and the F-count is under 10. (Remember when they had to get special permission to say Damn at the end of "Gone With the Wind"?) There are some film-biogs at the end and an interesting essay by the author that you will have to read off the screen. But the play itself is top-notch. Again, grab this one."
A Strong, Satisfying and Amusing Story of Political Revenge
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 01/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an enormously satisying British television program involving political hypocrisy, personal corruption and revenge. It's a mixture of cynical humor and serious political observations. And it features great acting all around.
Duncan Matlock (Trevor Eve) is an up-and-coming Tory politician who's specialities are family values and ambition. He's married to Flora Matlock (Juliet Stevenson), who loves him and who has supported his climb up the Tory ranks for years. She's the epitome of the perfect political wife...smart, wealthy, loyal, socially adept but with a human touch, great at looking entranced at her husband on stage while he gives his speeches about values and family. When it's discovered he's had an affair with a former prostitute (Minnie Driver), she is devestated, but he pleads for forgiveness saying it was only a passing weakness. The Tory damage-control team, headed by Sir Donald Frazier (Ian Bannen), after weighing things for a bit, decides to swing behind Duncan and convices Flora that her husband is a changed man. She agrees to stay with him.
Then she learns Duncan's affairs go way back, that they are continuing, that he has a habit of using people, which includes her and the people who lead organizations trying to help battered women and familes, for his own ends. Flora sets out to seek her revenge...and does so with great subtlety. Duncan doesn't know what hit him until it's too late, and she gently forces Sir Donald and his inner-party big wigs to make some cynical choices. I'm not sure there's a male politician in the bunch who comes off very well -- they all seem to be self-satisfied, self-serving members of the same club. Flora beats them at their own game.
Juliet Stevenson is a first-rate acrtess, and she does a superb job. She moves from devotion to hurt to forgiveness to a strong, smart woman setting up hidden revenge with immense believeabilty. Her short speech before a group of Tory wives who call themselves The Conservative Christian Wives Club (this is after she has discovered the truth about her husband but is playing the loyal wife) is a funny, ironic piece of subversion. Trevor Eve is just about as good as the charming, believable, ambitious, hypocritical politician on the make.
"The Politican's Wife" was shown in three installments and runs just over three hours. There's not a dull moment. The DVD transfer, on one disc, is very good. This is the unedited UK version. The program was trimmed a bit when shown in the US to eliminate a flash or two of breast."
A tale of revenge
FrKurt Messick | Bloomington, IN USA | 05/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"`The Politician's Wife' is a fascinating drama, a revenge story of the first order, and a good rendition of post-Thatcher politics shortly before the fall of the Conservative Party, in part due to charges of corruption from being so long in office. This is a Channel Four production, also shown on the PBS series (heavily edited) `Masterpiece Theatre' in the United States.
This is a drama as a triptych. The first part is discovery, the second part failed reconciliation and aftermath, with the third part revenge. Flora Matlock is a perfect politician's wife - dutiful, full of charm and good works, reasonably stylish without being ostentatious, and definitely one not to outshine her rising-star ministerial husband. Coming from a family with a political background (her father is himself an almost-has-been in the Party, hoping to hitch himself to the rising Duncan Matlock), she was the `right sort' who could be counted on to act in such a way as was `meet and right so to do'. But Duncan has a secret that has just been revealed.
Flora discovers her husband's affair first from the media onslaught that occurs as a result of the press getting hold of the story. Duncan Matlock enlists the aid of the various party members, including Flora's own father, to pressure her to forgive him, not just for the sake of their marriage, but for the sake of the party; they hope that her party-political upbringing will help her to `see reason' in this process.
However, there is one party functionary who does not like what is going on (Mark Hollister, a middle-weight player in the party, who perhaps sees the fall of Duncan Matlock as his opportunity to rise in the party). Duncan Matlock had described his affair with Jennifer Caird in very generic, disarming terms to Flora. Hollister provides very graphic tape recordings of phone sex and other very prurient details that show Flora just how much Duncan was concealing. Flora decides to take on her husband, her husband's mistress Jennifer (who seems to thrive on the continuing attention both of Duncan and the media), and the whole party apparatus to get justice, a kind of justice she decides for herself.
The party functionaries are Machiavellian, but it turns out they are rank amateurs compared to Hollister (in the beginning) and what Flora Matlock becomes. She uses her history and their constant underestimation of her to good advantage, and soon has the upper hand in all dealings. Her revenge is indeed sweet in the end.
Acting and Directing
Juliet Stevenson does a remarkable acting job, going from the somewhat mousy to dramatically tough Flora Duncan in the space of three episodes. To play the two different characters would be acting ability enough; to carry forward both characters as a believable combination of both into one is great. Trevor Eve plays a great villain as Duncan Matlock, condescending and ambitious, deceitful and emotionally usurious. Indeed, one might wonder at the mismatch between Flora and Duncan given their different characters, save for one conversation between Flora and her father, where he claims that she had to know what he was like when she picked him for a husband, and she responds that she didn't pick him, he picked her. Another stand-out performance is by Minnie Driver, in her pre-Hollywood days, as Jennifer Caird, the outspoken mistress of Duncan Matlock. Anton Lesser also does a good job as Mark Hollister, playing the one who seems to care both what happens to Flora as well as to his own career.
This is definitely one of Graham Theakston's best - he has directed episodes in a lot of dramatic series (Cadfael, A Touch of Frost, Taggart, Dempsey & Makepeace) as well as a few other stand-alone projects (Sherlock, The Mill on the Floss). The pacing is good throughout, and the overall tone of the production is a good one, befitting its political theme.
The production won the BAFTA TV award, the International Emmy for drama, the Peabody Award, and the Writer's Guild of Great Britain award for dramatic writing, all in 1995 or 1996.
Read no further if you don't want to know the nature and outcome of Flora's revenge.
My favourite scene has to be at the conclusion, while Duncan is sitting in the airport lobby seats, waiting for a flight to take him to a do-nothing graveyard post in the European Parliament (I recall the words of Jim Hacker, from `Yes, Minister', who described taking a European Parliament job as a dead-end for a political career - `You're reduced to having to start your own party if you ever want to make it back,' he said). On the television in the airport lobby is a broadcast of the election results for the parliamentary seat vacated by Duncan, and there is the victor, the radiant Flora Matlock, who has beaten her husband and the whole of the party machine at their own game. Indeed, she was by that point another Iron Lady in the making.
It is not unusual in politics for a widow to take the place of a politician who dies in office. This was true even before women began to regularly elected in their own right - it also speaks to the skill and lack of appreciation that politician's wives tend to get in general. In the United States, with Hillary Clinton now running for the same office her husband held (who had his own brush with infidelity), this drama seems like the right kind of piece. All things old are new again. "
Patty M | San Francisco-Bay Area | 10/26/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie proves what I've always said. "Revenge is sweet", and "Revenge is a pie best eaten cold". Found the actors great, the tale intriguling and the writing excellent. The British do it so well! Bravo to them."