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.
The only redeeming quality of this film is that it does give the viewer a general sense of Hemingway and Gellhorn's relationship and the historic events in which they participated. Unfortunately, the screenwriter doesn't get some of the history correct and we do not gain any insight into these two famous writers. At best, Kaufman's film is a walk through of events leading up to World War II through their eyes.
Of note is the interesting use of archival news reel footage incorporating the actors, but technique alone cannot save this picture. I imagine had this film been made 20 years ago by the same director responsible for The Right Stuff and The Unbearable Lightness of Being, this film would have been a masterpiece.
Again, this film is only worth your time if you're interested in Hemingway, Gellhorn and the rise of fascism in Spain.
my life, I didn't bother finishing the film.
#1: Casting of Clive Owen is DESTRUCTIVELY bad. Between the boorish Clive Owen being completely mis-cast, the words he's got to draw from and the actions he takes induce more snickers and spit-takingly horrible fits of laughter than ANY form of drama. At one point he KICKS in a door during an air raid (while in Spain with a kittenish & absurdly naive Gellhorn), grabs Gellhorn in his arms, then wisks her off to another room to bang her brains out WHILE THE BOMBS DROP OUTSIDE THE FRIGGIN' WINDOW.
Yea. That bad, and in more places than one. I feel bad for the actors. In a movie that otherwise could be called one of the best-cast in any TV film in recent years it seemed the producer/directors wanted to waste as much acting talent as they could pull aboard.
#2 The movie could not decide what it was, what it should look like, or how it should feel throughout its entirety. I understand the attempt may have been a noble one in switching from black & white footage to sepia, to color, etc. as a "romantic character" itself in the film- but this was an example of straight confusion.
On some occaions the elements of the film were grafted into archived footage, some cases not, some cases just the archive footage was shown, some cases chrystal-clear colors.
...While Clive Owen kicked in doors and made love to Gellhorn as the grenades exploded dangerously close to their various extremities.
Maybe the worst scene in the entire film was when (gulp) Hemingway's character decided it wise to play Russian Roulet with a Russian general in order to (lmao) DRUNKENLY protect the weak little sparrow that was Gellhorn from said General from having to dance.
The whole scene is so ludicrously bad one (again) finds it tough not to just bust out laughing at a scene who's intent was not in the least to invoke such a response.
The movie carries on like this for its entirety. Every minute I broke from looking away at the horror that it was, I would eventually look back out of shear morbid curiosity to see what they'd done to Hemingway's memory, and BOOM another bomb goes off with Hemingway swooping in to save Gellhorn from the horror that is war by banging away on her, framed on the screen as tactfully as the cover of a ten-cent bodice-ripper paperback.
All of that acting talent, wasted on a script that was egregiously bad, filmed entirely during amateur hour.