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Philip Kaufman who directed this long and boring mess of a film knows
better (The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Twisted, etc) and the idea
of reflecting on the relationship between Ernest Hemingway and Martha
Gellhorn which took place during so many important historical events
(Spanish Civil War in Franco's Spain, WW II complete with the Allied
Invasion of Europe at Normandy Beach, the Russian Invasion of Finland,
the turmoil in China as Communism rose in reaction to the Japanese
invasion, the strange position of Cuba in all of this). But the
screenplay is so mediocre to very bad (screenwriters Jerry Stahl and
Barbara Turner) and the level of acting is so superficial that it
simply falls flat.
Martha Gellhorn, the Collier's reporter who becomes a war correspondent and marries Ernest Hemingway as she travels up the ladder of fame, is by far the main character here. A very well made-up aged Martha (Nicole Kidman) opens the story as she is being interviewed for a TV program. We immediately are in flashbacks to how this stern woman met Hemingway in a Key West bar, matched him quip for poorly written quip and finally follows him in a very phony setup: Hemingway (Clive Owens in a shoddy performance) is traveling with John Dos Passos (David Strathairn), Spanish patriot Paco Zarra (Rodrigo Santoro) and crew to shoot a film by Joris Ivens (Lars Ulrich) to show the public the atrocities of Franco in the Spanish Revolution - a tiresomely overused gimmick. Everyone drinks a lot and Hemingway finally seduces Gellhorn to his bed in Madrid (he is currently married to the very Catholic Pauline (Molly Parker) who upon discovery his adultery refuses to divorce him). As the situation in Spain falls down, Hemingway and Gellhorn take their need to write - Hemingway to complete FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS and Martha flies off to various war fronts to be a war correspondent. Together they fight their way through experiences in China and other hot spots until ultimately Hemingway remains drunk in Cuba 'fighting off German U boats' and Gellhorn gives up on him.
Nicole Kidman gives the only remarkable performance; Clive Owens could have phoned in his role. Others in the huge cast of miniscule parts are Robert Duval , embarrassingly bad as a Russian General, Joan Chen as Madame Chiang, Tony Shalhoub as the Russian spy Koltsov, an excellent Santiago Cabrera as the famous war photographer Robert Capa, Peter Coyote (don't blink), Diane Baker, Parker Posey, and Connie Nielsen. The film runs 2 ½ hours on HBO and could easily have been edited down to an hour and a half. The only real saving grace (meaning the only reason to watch it0 is the very artistic way the film is a blend between contemporary cinematography and real film footage from the events in the story. That part is Magical. Otherwise, this is a snooze fest.
I wanted to enjoy this film very much, and was looking forward to
Unfortunately it doesn't deliver in any way other than visually. It was shot and edited beautifully, and had a lot of potential. But that's where it ends.
The story is boring and meandering, and never really gives you anything to sink your teeth into. The character development is shockingly superficial, as though we're automatically supposed to care about Hemingway and Gellhorn simply because they're Hemmingway and Gellhorn. Sadly, it just doesn't work like that; the notoriety of he subject matter isn't enough to carry the story without competent writing to back it up.
Ultimately we're left with a disappointingly empty portrayal of one of the most colorful and dynamic individuals in history.
I'm always leery of historical epics and biopics that never get the history right. Composite characters are created, the time line is messed with, people say things that are attributed to others etc. After viewing Hemmingway and Gellhorn and then doing a little background research, Kaufman and Co. at least got the story right especially the events of the Spanish Civil War. These scenes look exactly like the Robert Capa photos taken when he accompanied Hemmingway and Gellhorn. Nicole Kidman is great as usual, Clive Owen is a bit over the top but then again he is playing someone who was in many ways, larger than life. I felt both Robet Duvall and Peter (don't blink or you'll miss him) Coyote talents were wasted in minor roles. The blending of sepia with black and white was a good way to invoke the photos and news footage of the day and by inserting the characters into this historic footage (a la Forrest Gump) really showed that the characters were part of something much larger. At 2 1/2 hours I wasn't bored but it could've benefited from a better script and tightening the story somewhat.
I don't understand the praise for Kidman in this role. I couldn't get past her overly botoxed expressionless face (she only showed two emotions with facial gestures throughout the entire movie - a deer in headlights and disgust). Owen doesn't look anything like Hemingway and certainly didn't capture his essence - not even slightly. The sex scenes were nauseating and far too explicit in many ways. Everything about the movie came off as phony, fake, contrived. The sepia effect flashing in and out in certain scenes looked odd. The interaction between the two characters looked forced and unnatural. I kept thinking how much I loved that movie "Julia" (1977) and how wonderful Jane Fonda and Jason Robards were as Lillian Hellman and Dashiel Hammett. Kidman and Owen should have watched that movie before making this one - they could've learned a thing or two about two writers in an intimate relationship and how it should be acted.
The movie left me flat. I was interested in the history and intrigued to see how it was portrayed. Skipping back and forth between the sepia, black and white and colour formats was disruptive. Further I don't think that the two principals did their roles justice. Like Hemingway they tried, almost painfully at times, to be larger than life and it resulted in inconsistent portrayals of these remarkable characters....both are good actors...probably a function of bad direction. The love affair didn't work at all....I guess a combination of things got in the way of my enjoying the movie. Several times I commented "this is not a very good flick" as we watched...and yet we watched it to the end...knowing how it would end....a strange viewing experience. I wanted it to be better and it had such potential to be so.
A truly miserable film that trades in posing, overacting and phony'
hyperdramatic lines. It is Insipidly researched: a five-minute read of
Wikipedia may seem adequate to the badly underdeveloped, but why would
they be the audience for a film like this. It is clunkily written, in
dialogue and in its scenarios. The film is unfair to Hemingway,
reducing him to a loud bully conspicuously and constantly panicked
about his manhood and ignoring the balance of his life and personality.
It is unfair to dos Passos, portraying one who saw much combat and who
was regularly passed over for literary prizes because of his
conviction. making him appear to be a weak and feckless hanger-on. It
is also unfair to Gellhorn, who was a truly great war correspondent.
The actor Clive Owen is quite an unfortunate choice to play Hemingway. Owen never sounds appropriate.
The film's author seems to have a grudge against Hemingway, too.
This seems aimed at no one past a high school freshman level. In fact, it seems to be written by three or four of them, and directed by the least tasteful of the group.
Is American movie-making deliberately getting dumber or are such movies just negligent.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There was once a contest called the International Imitation Hemingway
Competition, better known as Bad Hemingway, in which entrants submitted
the most-ludicrous, ham-fisted short stories in the style of the man
some consider the greatest writer America has ever produced, Ernest
Hemingway. Too bad the contest is now defunct, because the twits behind
Hemingway & Gellhorn could have submitted this ham-fisted
ludicrousness, and "won" hands down!
I positively howled at the scene where a bomb explodes as the title characters are doing the nasty, stop as debris rains on them, then pick up where they left off. Then, the film had the gall to have the heroine come upon the crying baby who was the lone survivor of a Japanese bombing raid (one of the most horrific of all wartime images). When her guide (whom I thought at first was the butchiest woman in China) tells her there's nothing they can do, I wanted to reach inside the TV, and throttle them! That the guide turned out to be the future Chairman Mao - whose regime killed at least 40 million people (and babies) - was a bit of nasty the filmmakers didn't want to touch with a 10 foot chopstick. Instead, they were too busy turning Mao's partner in crime, Zhou Enlai, into an erudite stud, castrating Chiang Kai-shek, and making a convincing argument for "Papa" and "Marty" being Forrest Gumps's parents!
When one plays a real person, he should inspire the viewer to learn more about that person; Owen and Kidman fail miserably. Granted, Hemingway and Gellhorn were not the nicest people, to put nicely. And Gellhorn cheated on Hemingway throughout their marriage -- another bit of nasty the filmmakers wanted no part of.
Owen looked like a nerdy Groucho Marx, and Kidman looked like, well, Nicole Kidman. And the script was a putrid mess. "You spend so much time arguing with F. Scott Fitzgerald about who has a bigger penis, but I know the truth"? Gag!
After "Marty" kicked the documentary crew out of her apartment, I was hoping she would follow "Papa"'s lead. But no such luck. Instead, we are "treated" to a bizarre interaction between her and a raven at her window (!). Then, she straps a backpack on, and storms out like an overgrown Girl Scout having a bitch fit. She wasn't the only one having a bitch fit.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's not a good sign when everyone in a movie is busy praising the main
characters in lieu of the characters actually exhibiting any of the
traits that would presumably make them interesting or praiseworthy.
Welcome to "Hemingway and Gellhorn," a picture overblown with its own importance and desperately in need of an editor's scalpel. Ironic that this should be so, given how Hemingway is so often cited for his "terse, lean" style, much less Gellhorn's necessarily efficient war correspondence journalism.
The lethargic disjointed pretense of a plot finds itself upstaged by cameras fading between monochrome and full color as well the occasional tawdry unconvincing grapple of a sex scene in lieu of actual romance. While the paper-thin writing gives Kidman and Owen little to do with their characters, they might as well be phoning this one in, for all the depth they invest in this film.
Considering the talent involved I expected so much more from this film. The 2 principles were not good. They both seemed not very comfortable in their roles or maybe they just couldn't rise to the occasion, playing 2 historical figures who are so significant. There is a lot of over acting especially when going for a non dialog , reaction shot, other characters seemed as though they weren't really into it. Just reading lines. Sorry but this was really bad.... Some sets were beautiful and some of the b&w shots were interesting but like in pop music you can have the best musicians but you need songs.... The acting and script didn't cut it.. I don't know. As you can see no names mentioned here.... don't want to single anyone out on to the next project I suppose.
I was really disappointed in this movie. The build up and anticipation
for it was great. I had high expectations. With Clive Owen and Nicole
Kidman leading the charge, it was Kaufman's to screw up, and screw it
up he did.
The characters were shallow, but they fit right in with the ankle deep script. I thought the historic film gimmick was overplayed and laughable at times. Clive Owen tried his hardest to bring life to Stahl and Turner's straw-man. Hemingway never had any real motive and when it appeared that he might, it was abandoned. Nicole Kidman did a fine job as well, but it had to be long days and frustrating nights with the stiff dialogue. The supporting cast was lifeless, filled with assumptions, and caricatures of an era. Watching this film was like watching an artist that promised to paint you a masterpiece then he pulled out a mop. This was sloppy film-making and it started with the script and ended with the director. A poor showing for such a rich subject.
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