Hemingway & Gellhorn Reviews
Nicole Kidman plays intrepid war correspondent Martha Gellhorn with spirit and guts. As the young woman, she proves to be Hem's literary and sexual equal but eventually realizes that his is a pride so crippling that it would recognize no equal. As the older woman, she wears the age make-up naturally and stretches her gravelly voice into an emotional frame story.
Clive Owen cuts a mean silhouette, but he is disappointing as Hemingway overall. His natural mush-mouthed British cadence gets mangled with Papa's gruff Patrician accent. I also have yet to see an actor deliver Papa's aphorisms without making him sound like a caricature. Owen's performance is not a huge problem though since this isn't so much a movie about Ernest Hemingway as it is a movie about Martha Gellhorn, who most literari know little about beyond her being Hem's third wife.
This new focus into the woman behind the man who refused to get behind a woman (except in the boudoir) is commendable and generally well-plotted. The action gets a little confusing throughout, especially due to the baseless changing of hues from sepia-tone to technicolor. The sex scenes get a bit Lifetimey too.
Despite the order of the title, this is a film about Martha Gellhorn, and it is through the lens of her life that we explore Hemingway. It's a structure that is good in theory, and the story, though as uneven and occasionally bipolar as Hem, is not one of the film's primary problems, provided one knows a lot about the politics of the time. Rather, the film mysteriously changes color like the director's four-year-old daughter wandered into the editing room; there were a few good theories as to why the film switched from color to black and white, but the next color switch defies all reason.
In theory, Clive Owen is a good Hemingway, but the British actor's voice was off, and Owen's Hem is stronger when he's vulnerable, and his legendary bluster comes off like an actor chewing scenery rather than delivering a nuanced performance. By contrast, Nicole Kidman was fantastic, delivering one of the strongest performances of her career. Strong or vulnerable, Kidman is exceptional.
Overall, this is a mixed bag with enough flaws too noticeable to ignore.
"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.
I wanted to like it because I wanted to learn about these people, but the acting by Owen and the directing and writing were sub-par IMO.
Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman are incredibly portraying, you just can't stop falling in love with them.