"Hemingway & Gellhorn" opens with Ernest Hemingway(Clive Owen), not writing, but fishing and catching a huge specimen which is displayed in his favorite Key West bar. In walks Martha Gellhorn(Nicole Kidman) like a tall, cool glass of lemonade. Suitably impressed by her ample charms, he invites her over to his house where he is hosting a fundraiser for the Spanish Civil War, with John Dos Passos(David Strathairn) giving commentary. Suitably inspired, Hemingway announces plans to go to Spain to make a documentary to counter fascist propaganda. It is then that his wife Pauline(Molly Parker) reminds him that he is in fact married, with children and Catholic to boot and forbids him from going. Hemingway goes anyway, with Gellhorn finding her own way to Spain.
"Hemingway & Gellhorn" has a wealth of historical and personal details about its subjects at its disposal. Sadly, it does not make a great use of them, as this feels at times like little more than a bargain basement version of "Reds," nor can it measure up to Ken Loach's "Land and Freedom." In depicting the past, "Hemingway & Gellhorn" also seeks to emulate the magical age of romantic bickering in Hollywood but that kind of charm and chemistry can never be replicated. Clive Owen, butch as he is, may seem right for the role on the surface but with that mustache, glasses and beret, he makes me think much more of Groucho Marx, than either Gary Cooper or Humphrey Bogart. And in trying to be an epic, the movie is stretched to the breaking point, being just long enough for Parker Posey, of all people, to put in an appearance. I know the movie bookends with Hemingway fishing but a better start would have been in Spain with Gellhorn decamping from a tank. Now, that's how you make an entrance. In fact, since we already know so much about Hemingway, this should have been Gellhorn's movie with her long career as a war correspondent being a revelation.