When, one day in 1929, writer Thomas Wolfe decided to keep the appointment made by Max Perkins, editor at Scribner's, he had no illusions: his manuscript would be turned down as had invariably been the case. But, to his happy amazement, his novel, which was to become "Look Homeward, Angel," was accepted for publication. The only trouble was that it was overlong (by 300 pages) and had to be reduced. Although reluctant to see his poetic prose trimmed, Wolfe agreed and was helped by Perkins, who had become a true friend, with the result that it instantly became a favorite with the critics and a best seller. Success was even greater in 1935 when "Of Time and the River" appeared, but the fight for reducing Wolfe's logorrheic written expression had been even harder, with the novel originally at 5,000 pages. Perkins managed to cut 90,000 words from the book, and with bitterness ultimately taking its toll, the relationships between the two men gradually deteriorated. Wolfe did not feel ... Written by
"O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again." ― Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel
Max Perkins (Colin Firth) was the genius Scribner's magazine editor, who helped Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Wolfe become iconic American writers. The watchable Genius, directed by Michael Grandage with a sure understanding of drama, is mostly Thomas Wolfe's (Jude Law) story. The taciturn Max provides the necessary guidance to make sure the book belongs to the writer while Max delivers "good books into the hands of readers."
Although the film is engrossingly placed in Perkin's pv, Wolfe dominates through his exuberant personality and unending energy. While Firth plays Perkins as the conservative but imaginative editor, Law is the reason to see the film, a brilliant acting turn reminiscent of his over-the-top Dom Hemingway. Law simply has never been better than as Wolfe.
The sepia look of the film is appropriate to the 1929 setting of NYC, and Nicole Kidman as his other muse, Aline Bernstein, is memorably smart and vulnerable when it comes to dealing with manic Wolfe. Although Laura Linney as Louise Perkins is lost in spotty, low energy appearances, her general good cheer carries nicely for a Perkins of whom the audience has grown fond.
Because I am always seeking a biography that will show the creative labors of artists, Genius satisfies me when Perkins and Wolfe struggle over the manuscripts. After experiencing Genius, I have seen two sterling examples.
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