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I'm a huge Ernest Hemingway fan and The Garden of Eden is by far my
favorite novel. I must have read it a dozen times. I was reluctant to
even watch the film - knowing that it could never live up to the book.
Well, I did anyway.
The photography is great. I lived in the south of France for seven years and I've always been in love with the region. But, it appears that most of the filming was done in Spain.
The direction and acting are brilliant. However, this has to be one of the worst screenplay adaptations of a novel ever. Much of the very "real to life" dialogue is totally absent from the film. The true motivations of the characters (and their respective dilemmas) are underdeveloped.
Oh well... Read the book.
This is a very mediocre movie with really good actors who have done everything to give shape to this story. Mena Suvari and Caterina Murino are great in their roles even if these roles are incomplete for understand their stories. For Jack Huston I did not feel anything. He is just not the right actor for the role maybe, he seems too young and perfect to be credible. The story remains shallow, despite the inspiring beginning and how seductive the first 30 minutes looks - it then became flat. The characters are not developed enough to make them believable. They are a cool couple but without any reason to do what they do?. Sad to see what could be a good movie in the right hands. The photography and aesthetic in the movie is good, also beautiful locations, however the lack of depth make this almost disappear. I feel disappointed after watching it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Hollywood cannot make these European style movies yet, so why do they
keep trying? The casting was quizzical to say the least.
Mena Suvari is not sufficiently sophisticated as a person nor as an actress to carry the role.Neither is she pretty enough although she was able to portray the mentally-suspect aspects of the role. A bit too young for an American ingénue with money,in the roaring twenties in Paris.
Jack Huston seemingly gave his best effort,but honestly! He hardly looked or acted like a post war American,let alone a Hemingway character.
Caterina Murino......wow, much better as Solange in her 'Bond' role,fair to say she added a bit of class,albeit a bit too subdued due to her confusing part in the play.
I imagine that some of the best parts of this film ended up on the cutting room floor.....sadly.
I read the book a long time ago and maybe I should revisit it. Had I not known before watching this film,that it was based on an Hemingway novel,my best guess would have been that it was based on an Hemingway wannabe's novella.
Based on a posthumously released novel written by Ernest Hemingway,
Garden of Eden takes place prior to the Great Depression, during the
Jazz age, following a successful young American writer, David Bourne
(Jack Houston), and his new bride, Catherine (Mena Suvari), a rich
heiress, who are on an extended honeymoon in Europe. During the
honeymoon, Catherine starts to get restless and begins playing bizarre
mind games with David, testing his devotion. To David's discomfort, she
persuades him to role play in the bedroom, with her as the boy and him
as the girl. Things get stranger when Catherine develops a relationship
with an Italian girl, Marita (Caterina Murino), and brings her to him
as a "present", even suggesting they take turns being David's wife.
Directed by John Irvin (Hamburger Hill, Dogs of War), this film is more character-driven than plot-driven. There is much sex going on, focusing on the strange love triangle between David, Catherine, and Marita. The focus and the pace of the film changes noticeably when it moves on to David's past memories of his father, an elephant hunter in Africa. These memories, which are quite out of place from the rest of the film, become material for David's new book.
This film is beautiful to look at. It is a period film--the mood, clothing, and environments recreate the early part of the 20th century in fine detail, soft sepia filters, and a pastel color scheme. There's an impressive tracking shot in the beginning of an outdoor banquet, of rich folks raising their glasses in slow motion. We soon see a naked lady being filmed at a picnic, re-enacting Manet's "The Luncheon on the Grass". Small moments like these amusingly portrays a certain mindset of this particular society. Advertisement
It the film, David Bourne appears to be Hemingway's alter ego. While Jack Huston looks like the young Hemingway, his character is far from the heavy-drinking, macho guy the famous author was known for. He is constantly pushed around by the neurotic Catherine, whom he is always trying to please, which becomes increasingly hard to do. Catherine has some amount of disdain for David's work and becomes jealous when Marita admits to having read his transcript. Throughout the film, David half-jokingly calls Catherine "Devil."
Admittedly, the characters here are not very engaging. Jack Houston does what he can with his role, but his character never feels like a whole person. Mena Suvari has a meatier role as Catherine, who brings much intensity to the film. However, we never quite know why she acts the way she does and her dialogue feels stilted. Caterina Murino (Casino Royale) is competent as Marita, despite the character's lack of complexity.
Given the title of the film, Garden of Eden, a reference to the Bible, one might say David represents Adam and Cartherine represents Eve. Perhaps the theme speaks about a picture-perfect couple who are tempted toward a wrong way. In this film, though, it appears to be mostly Catherine who brings things down for them. Or, it could just be that Catherine is actually the serpent (as David called her "Devil.") bringing Marita (Catherine's "present") as the fruit to tempt David to fall. It is indicated that Catherine wants to share her "sin" (Marita) with David to feel less guilty about her extramarital relationship with Marita.
One wonders if Hemingway could be using Catherine to represent certain attitudes within radical feminism. The film also touches upon morality and class. Catherine says something along the lines of "we are not like normal people--we can live our life however we want." Given that this film was based on an incomplete novel, it is hard to say what Hemingway really wanted to say, or if he had a particular message. It could just be a character study. As it is, the film feels uneven and the characters are not very engaging. Perhaps it is meant to be read as a novel and not seen as a film.
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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I watched "Garden of Eden" last night.Other then the amazing scenery
the acting was crap and the entire movie had no substance,just a few
sexually explicit scenes of nude bodies in the throes of copulation.
The scenes of the hunting of the elephant in Africa were intense.The relationship between the father and son left one to wonder why he had bothered to include his son at all.
If you see the preview you have seen this movie.
I was so not pleased with this.
I can not find anything of value in it except for the beautiful soundtrack. The music used was from Globus~ Orchards of Mines and Serenata Immortale by Immediate music.
They could have greatly improved the movie by having the triangle that was being weaved by the wife visualized.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Marvel Comics used to have a series called "What If
?" The premise of
it was stories that took an established bit of Marvel continuity (or
comic book history, for you non-fanboys) and changed it. "What
Doctor Doom rescued his mother from Mephisto?" "What if
never died?" "What If
The Mole Man tried Match.com?" Well, this film is
basically "What If
Ernest Hemingway wrote an episode of Red Shoe
Diaries?" For those unfamiliar, RSD was the title of a 1990s erotica
anthology on HBO where David Duchovny played a man who lost his love
and coped with it by reading letters from people about their own sexual
experiences. It was the age when cable TV brought softcore porn to the
masses and before the internet did the same for the hard stuff. This
movie feels like a relic of that era because the emotional drama is so
forced and underdeveloped that there's no value to it except in seeing
pretty people stripped down and simulating intercourse. And while Jack
Huston, Mena Suvari and Caterina Maura are attractive enough to satisfy
all comers, there aren't nearly enough sex scenes here to fit that
bill. I mean, the story has a lesbian encounter that's left entirely
off camera. So, the better question for these filmmakers is not "What
?" It's "What the hell!?!?"
David Bourne (Jack Huston) is an American WWI veteran living in Paris after the war. He's a writer currently between novels when he meets, falls in love with and quickly marries the wealthy and daring Catherine Hill (Mena Suvari). They fart around Europe for a while on their honeymoon, Catherine demonstrating a controlling and manipulative nature that should have sent David running for the hills, until they settle in a sea side hotel in Spain for the summer. That's where David starts to work on another book and Catherine drags the lovely and tempting Marita (Caterina Murino) into the mix, clearly intent on forging some sort of polyamourous union among the three. David, being a relatively proper gentleman of the 1920s instead of a jaded dude of the 21st century, balks at either he or Catherine cavorting with their continental bit of fluff. Then the film diverges into scenes from David's new novel about elephant hunting with his father (Matthew Modine) as the three-way tryst turns out exactly how Catherine self-destructively desired.
I'll leave it to others as to whether this thing is a good and faithful adaptation of Hemingway's novel. I doubt it is, but that has nothing to do with the quality of the film itself. On that score, Garden of Eden is a disappointment. It is not poorly directed or acted. The story is simply so shallow and dated that it gives you nothing except a diversion of sex and nudity. And as I mentioned, there's not enough of that. David is terminally passive. Catherine is practically a Jazz Age caricature. Marita, when she's understandable through her accent, is nothing more than an object of affection passed between the Bournes. The story's attitude toward and handling of things reminds me of Eyes Wide Shut in that not only is it old fashioned sexually, but it feels like the people telling the story don't comprehend how quaint and behind the times it is. Nothing that happens here is going to be shocking or provocative to anyone post-puberty in this day and age. That doesn't necessarily make the tale unviable, but it has to affect the way it's told. This film does nothing to define the conventions of its time, how they were challenged by the cultural malaise of post-WWI society or the way that era relates to our own. There's no meat to Hemingway's Garden of Eden. There are only handsome bones.
That narrative lack is best illustrated when things turn to David's story about he as a boy and his father in Africa. The story had sat there doing nothing for so long on the screen that I was initially bewildered by the shift to images of a great white hunter and son on an elephant-hunting expedition. Those scenes are so much more focused and direct and clear in what they're trying to do dramatically and emotionally, they make the rest of the movie all the more pale and wan.
Now, if there had been a lesbian scene between Suvari and Murino and a full blown menage a trois to top everything off, this would have been like an overly long but passable edition of Red Shoe Diaries. Fine for what it is, if you're into that. The absence of those obvious scenes leads me to conclude the makers of Hemingway's Garden of Eden fancied they were making a legitimate motion picture and not softcore smut. They and any viewers would have been better off if their intentions had been less lofty and more crude. This is stuck in that no man's land where it's not good enough to be taken seriously and not trashy enough to be enjoyed frivolously. Either read the book or watch something else.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film gets so much of Hemingway's novel right, but it's still
necessary to point out the major flaws. After all, Hemingway spent
years on this novel, and the greatly edited version that was eventually
published (for good or bad) was a serious ground-breaker.
The theme of wife Catherine wanting to game-play reverse gender role--- pretending to be the man and calling her husband "girl" were critical themes in this novel of perversity. They take the walk-on-eggshells approach in the film, except for a few words during sex, they get identical unisex hair jobs, and that's about as far as it goes.
Wife Catherine's creation of a three-way sexual affair -- bringing an extra girl into their marriage as a gift for her husband -- is handled more completely. What is missing is to make you feel how very much this man loves his bride, how he accepts these perversions to please her (a normal man, even a tomcat like myself, would actually NOT want a spare woman, even a beautiful one, in his marriage) the perversions will sadly erode his love for the woman he loved before he knew her so well.
Two strong plus marks: This is the first and only Hemingway movie to reflect the frequent and heavy drinking in his novels. Second, is for the choice of the actress playing Catherine. Not a conventional beauty I'd say, and her face might be called funny-looking; but as she played Catherine she quietly radiated the intense sexuality of the character. I was wanting her maybe 90 seconds into the movie. Sure, this happens once in a while; not often to this degree. Hemingway made the reader feel the husband's both love and passion beyond a shadow of a doubt.
This was obviously an important personal statement by Hemingway. He wanted to convey these sexual perversions were not "cool" things to brag about to the guys; but rather sad and tragic revelations about the unraveling of love in the circumstance described. The movie fails at this; Hem's central point.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The movie is an adaptation of a Hemningway novel, but the novel itself
is quite an interesting story. Hemingway began it in 1946 but never
completed it. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1961 and the
book was not published until 1986. Even then it was highly edited and
in final form was perhaps one-third of what Hemingway had written.
Still it makes a rather nice movie that offers an interesting glimpse
of Hemingway. It is generally considered to be drawn from his own
experiences marrying an older woman and moving to Paris.
Jack Huston is American writer David Bourne living and writing in Paris. He meets a woman, a few years older and very wealthy. She loves him, calmly states that they will get married, buys him a sleek blue Bugatti as a gift just because she loves him. After only six weeks they are married and head off for a honeymoon on the Rivera.
The central character is actually Mena Suvari as the rich woman Catherine Hill. She is the type that always seems to get what she wants and is never shy about any situation. She is experimental. One day she shows up with a very short haircut, then she and David go to a French hairdresser who turns them into two androgynous bleached blonds. At an outdoor café Catherine notices two women staring, then one woman comes to inquire. Later Catherine goes into Cannes to retrieve the woman, bring her to the rural hotel, and "gives her to David as a present". The woman is Italian beauty Caterina Murino as Marita .
David is frequently reminded that his wife's wealth is making it possible for him to write, as money is not an issue. Catherine becomes more and more controlling and moody, alternately suggesting that David and Marita become lovers then feeling betrayed. David becomes increasingly agitated, and it reaches its peak when Catherine decides she doesn't like his 'An African Story' and burns his manuscript outside in the early morning light.
So what is the point of the story? Is it just showing how life is unpredictable? Perhaps he was highlighting how hazardous it is for two people to get married after a very short courtship. As rich as she was, and as attractive as she was, a real sex maniac, would David have married her had he known her well enough first?
I saw it on Netflix streaming movies.
As an aside, as David was writing his 'An African Story' ostensibly based on travels with his father, we see this played out in short scenes with Matthew Modine as David's father.
I like the movie, I think the current IMDb rating of 5.0 is way too low.
This film is excellent, even though there is quite a lot of nudity. The
photography is absolutely stunning and mesmerising, particularly scenes
in Africa and by the quayside. The acting is excellent and all in all
this is a fantastic film. Not for the faint-hearted, though.
The sets for this film were devised especially and the hotel built for the purpose of the story.
The ending has been changed for the American market but hopefully will be back to the original for the British and European markets. Perhaps in 2011 this film will be released for these areas to view. It is such a shame it has taken so long to be released, having been completed in 2008.
Great movie based on a great book - brilliant photography and wonderful
costumes by the same person who won an Oscar for her costumes in
Elizabeth 1, Alexander Byrne, and the editing is second to none from
one of the best editors in the business.
The best of the best with a few minor flaws.
Mena Suvari is superb and Jack Huston as her on screen husband is fitting in the part. John Huston's direction is flawless.
Is is just a pity that the film has not come to Europe yet and had a wider audience. The film should be viewed on the BIG screen as this is the only way to do justice to a Hemingway film.
The film went on limited release in the USA on 10th December 2010 to critical acclaim.
What more can be said?
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