In a better movie, the perversity would be the point. Maybe it is in this one, too; it’s hard to tell when William’s obtuse case is the audience’s only consistent window into the practice of doling out companions. Wifelike
certainly isn’t shy about sexuality early on, and though the sex scenes between William and Meredith are more softcore silliness than genuine provocation, Meredith does have a funny moment to herself: When exploring the possibility of self-pleasure, she gets an “access denied” message from her central processing system.
That moment is a stand-in for the whole movie, which is most interesting when it leaves Meredith to her own devices. She starts to figure out her own point of view through strange sci-fi touches like her “dream mode,” which allows her to select scenarios for a simulation of human sleep. Meredith also starts out speaking in the third person, only gradually accessing enough sense of self to make first-person statements — a neat idea, though kind of an odd programming wrinkle for such a vastly advanced system.
There’s an amusing moment where Meredith must process a waiver in order to cook William some health-threatening bacon, but sometimes Meredith needs to be taught terms that a computer would probably be able to look up seamlessly. What’s the utility of that slower learning curve, for either a grieving widower or a horny loser? Like the 2004 remake of The Stepford Wives
, the movie itself sometimes appears uncertain about the exact hows and whys of the process that makes companions.
As Meredith’s consciousness expands, she’s drawn into the conflict between William’s company and the anti-companion forces, uncovering buried secrets, hidden memories, and so on. This tension would be tighter if Jonathan Rhys Meyers didn’t play William as such a morose creep from the beginning. After 30 minutes or so, Wifelike
proceeds with the sinking feeling that writer-director James Bird intends to peel back layers of male decorousness to reveal the entitlement and control underneath. But these qualities are as visible as the skimpy lingerie that the companions all seem to have on hand as accessories.