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I find it hard to understand how this excellent film is getting negative reviews from critics. It is like a breath of fresh air for thinking movie goers. It is a thoughtful, intelligent and highly entertaining look at Maxwell Perkins, an editor who as he said wanted to bring "good books" to the public. He did, bringing us the works of Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe who is the focus of the film. It gives a historical perspective of two opposites (Perkins and Wolfe) who working together create something substantial. Perkins is a strong main character with a noble moral center, beautifully underplayed by Firth. When did we last see someone acting nobly in a film? In contrast, to the larger than life and decadent Wolfe (I had no idea Wolfe was played by Jude Law, until after the film) Law immerses himself in the character. The fact that this is a true story makes it all the more compelling. My fifteen year old daughter who is well versed in the writings of both Fitzgerald and Hemingway encouraged me to see Genius. We both walked away exhilarated; the way you feel after seeing a really good movie that transported you somewhere else. The Director, writer, actors and composer/ scorer all did a first rate job to help bring a to bring a great film to the public.
I, like other reviewers here, cannot understand why this movie has not received greater praise. I had already read some negative reviews but wanted to see the movie regardless, because of the strong cast and subject matter. I wound up entranced by this well-written, wonderfully acted film. Compelling throughout and a truly touching ending. Perhaps most of today's critics can only get excited by superhero movies. For anyone who loves great acting and a rare look into the creative process that is involved in producing great literature, this is a must see movie. Jude Law was spectacular and very moving in his role as Thomas Wolfe, as was Colin Firth as Scribner's editor Max Perkins. Kudos also to Laura Linney and Nicole Kidman. I loved it!
"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.
Director Michael Grandage's movie Genius about the relationship between
legendary Scribners editor Maxwell Perkins and flamboyant author Thomas
Wolfe has received generally tepid reviews. I for one am delighted an
editor is finally receiving some screen time! Wolfe was an author whose
moods, enthusiasms, and output were not easily corralled, even by
someone with Perkins's experience. After all, he'd brought works to the
public from other outsized personalities and authors with personal
difficultiesnotably Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
It's easy to imagine the slammed door that would greet an author today who showed up with a 5,000-page manuscript as Wolfe did with his second book, Of Time and the River. The challenging task of turning this into a readable manuscript epitomizes the editor's dilemma, as Perkins puts it, "Are we really making books better, or just making them different?" Getting 5,000 pages down to a still-hefty 900 made it different, all right. And better, at least in the sense of more likely to be read, too.
Colin Firth, as Perkins, keeps his hat on during almost the entirety of the movie, symbolic perhaps of how his character tried to keep a lid on his difficult author. Jude Law as Wolfe is by turns outrageous, contrite, drunk, and sentimental. Pretty much like the novels, actually. His performance is consistent and always interesting. He shows Wolfe as a man with a lot of words bottled up inside him who couldn't always control the way they poured out.
It's odd to see an all-British and Australian cast playing so many titans of American literary history, including Perkins and Wolfe, Guy Pearce as Fitzgerald, and Dominic West as Hemingway. (The Hemingway scene necessitated an ending credit for "marlin fabricator.") The women in the lives of the protagonists are Laura Linney as Mrs. Perkins, perfect as always, and Nicole Kidman, who believably portrays the obsessed Mrs. Bernstein. She's left her husband to cultivate and promote the much younger Wolfe and is not lacking a flair for the dramatic herself.
The movie is based on the National Book Award-winning Perkins biography by A. Scott Berg, transformed into a screenplay by John Logan. New Yorker critic Richard Brody dings the script for its departures from the detailed and more richly peopled original, including the book's fuller explanation for the rupture between Wolfe and Scribners. While I disagree with some critiques of the filmed story, Brody says a lawsuit and Wolfe's unsavory political views played a part, and leaving the latter out seems a mistake. A fuller exploration of the break-up could have put some meat on the bones.
Portraying in cinema an intrinsically intellectual and abstract enterprise is difficult (The Man Who Knew Infinity struggled with the same challenge.) Like me, reviewer Glenn Kenny at Roger Ebert.com apparently had not read the book, so did not have Brody's reservations. Kenny found "the exchanges between editor and author exhilarating. Logan's script . . . is invested in the craft of words like few other movies nowadays, even those ostensibly about writers." Wolfe blasted onto the American literary scene like a runaway train and left it before he could accomplish a judicious application of the brakes. Yet, he eventually realized who'd kept him on track, as his moving deathbed letter attests.
This was a very thoughtful, moving film, seamlessly made and directed with divine skill. The storytelling was so trans-formative that both my husband and I could barely leave the theater till every credit ended and the last note sounded. We have a symbiotic relationship with England and hats off to this film. Colin Firth was perfection. Jude Law in a southern role was a moment of challenge but I got over it and let go along for the brilliant ride. Enjoy seeing Nicole Kidman and Laura Linney in every scene give award winning performances and I hope others agree with nominations. Go see this movie. It is top rate in every aspect. The mood, music and total experience is a gift!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Berlin 66 Reviews By Alex Deleon GENIUS, Competition, World Premiere. A
Throwstone Product. image1.jpeg Max Perkins and Tom Wolfe checking his
MMS intently in "GENIUS"
"Genius" Stars Jude Law as genius novelist Thomas Wolfe and an austere Colin Firth who never took hat off until the final scene. Sepia tone photography and meticulous period reconstruction with streets full of proper vintage cars starts out promisingly. New York, 1929. Scribners publishing Co. Thomas Wolfe played by Jude Law as a frenetic young writer from the sticks of north Carolina arrives in The Big City carrying the bound reams of his first novel and brashly forces his way into the publishers office. The editor is quick to realize that he has a raw genius on his hands. This soon turns into a tale of an adoptive father and son relationship between editor Max Perkins (Firth) and the obstreperous genius Thomas Wolfe (Law) -- Colin lives in big manse out on the Island. Wolfe comes to visit. Daughters find him charming and entertaining at dinner. Gracious wife was Laura Linney. Everyone else finds Wolfe a crashing self-centered bore.
At work Perkins does not just correct spelling and red-line bits of writing here and there, but does massive restructuring on Wolfe's mounds of hand written manuscripts -- removing hundreds of irrelevant pages to produce finely honed best sellers. He recognizes Wolfe's genius immediately, but also his excessive verbosity and the need to compact the brilliant prose to make it publishable. The first novel, "Look Homeward Angel" (so renamed by Perkins) is a big hit and runaway best seller. Wolfe is an overnight literary sensation and celebrity. Perkins' wife patiently suffers his constant absence from home to work on the editing of the novels. Wolfe's behavior is outrageous (over the top performance by Jude Law with passable southern accent. ) and generally offensive to everybody within his reach. One wonders if the real Thomas Wolfe was such a rake and so ready to run roughshod over peoples feelings. Colin Firth plays Perkins as a close to the chest taciturn dignified father figure in contrast to Law's raving wild man image. In a way this is a tale of cooperative genius, because without the backup brilliance of Perkins' editing insight Wolfe might never have gotten published. Both were workaholics totally dedicated to their respective crafts -- geniuses in their own way.
Altogether this is a film that will probably satisfy fans of the magnificent writing of Thomas Wolfe (such as Yours Truly) -- but it gets far too wordy in the sections where long excerpts of Wolfe's scintillating prose are Quoted verbatim on screen to the point where the viewer is tempted to scream: "Alright already. I'll read the book later!" Interesting sub plot involves Wolfe meeting his Main rival for the title of top literary genius of the century, F. Scott Fitzgerald, played by Aussie actor Guy Pearce. Nicole Kidman is unrecognizable under an austere black wig as family friend Aline Bernstein and contributes little other than occasional abrasive nagging. Towards the end after a misunderstanding an ingrate Wolfe sells himself to a rival publisher to the dismay of all, especially Perkins who feels egregiously double-crossed. Very heavy atmosphere until Wolfe suddenly dies of Cerebral Tuberculosis at the height of his career, not yet 38. The sense of his impending doom is in the air as the film progresses to a crushing end. Odd that British theater director Michael Grandage chose to cast all English and Aussie actors in the principle roles of such a totally American tale. Sort of like asking Leonardo Dicaprio to play Charles Dickens with an all-American backup cast. I myself happen to be a big fan of the writing of Thomas Wolfe so I was captivated all the way, but the morning press gathering in the Big Hall accorded the picture no more than a slight round of polite applause. I cannot imagine that the general public will be much more enthusiastic.
The is based upon a true story. In 1929 Scribner Bookseller Publisher
Editor Max Perkins (Colin Firth) agrees to publish a novel by Thomas
Wolfe (Jude Law). It was said that other publishers rejected Wolfe's
novels due to their being overly long, but this did not deter Perkins
who was captivated by Wolfe's autobiographical poetic prose. Look
Homeward Angel was the result of that collaboration wherein we saw
Perkins cut much of the work. Later in their lives when their
relationship was somewhat strained Perkins remarks if editors make the
work better or different. This story revolves around Wolfe, but we know
the Genius in here is Perkins.
Of course, we all know that Colin Firth used to be King of England. (You like saying that, right?) Yes, the King's Speech was one of the best movies I have ever seen.
Back to Genius. Again with "true stories" we are not really sure how much of what we see is actually true and we have to almost accept everything, but when One goes to other reviewers as this One did, this time, we see that not all in the movie was actually true; and in some instances Wikipedia supports some of this. It will be up to you to decide what you want to believe. I could provide examples but that would lessen your interest in doing your research. See?
Colin Firth and Jude Law have, perhaps, given one of their best performances ever. (Well, except for Firth in The King's Speech you would agree, I am sure) We see Law's Wolfe as somewhat out of control at times, too exuberant, too over-confident, too uncaring about people especially his lover, Mrs Aline Bernstein (Nicole Kidman) when he refused to attend an opening night play of hers. At the same time - it seemed - that Perkins wouldn't go on a family vacation because he and Wolfe had work to do. Their obsession with the work of editing Wolf's novel was the only driving force in their lives.
I did not recognize Nicole Kidman as Mrs Bernstein and kept wondering who that was. But the credits said it was Nicole Kidman so there you are. Maybe she should wear her hair longer and keep it black as she was absolutely stunning and beautiful in this movie. Who knew? And the role she played could be considered Oscar Worthy along with Colin Firth and Jude Law. Kudos to all.
We see that both Perkins and Wolfe knew Ernest Hemingway (Dominic West) and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Guy Pierce) and those scenes were pure gold. Perkins was the editor for both Hemingway and Fitzgerald.
We kept wondering when Perkins would finally remove his hat which he wore in every scene except the last one.
We don't often get to see anything of the great writers/authors and the people who help them. This is a good first start and this was a great story. (9/10)
Violence: No. Sex: No. Nudity: No. Language: No.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I recently saw "Genius," a cliché-driven borefest that was not a good movie, let alone "a true story." I know the history well; the screenplay seemed to get very little right (other than the fact that Wolfe and Perkins met in 1929). Where a little subtlety would have worked wonders, they went for the cliché every single time.
1) O Lost was not rejected by every publisher in New York. It certainly wasn't the end of the road by the time it landed on Perkins' desk. When they received the 1100 double-spaced pages (not single-spaced, as the movie states), more than one editor at Scribners read portions of the typescript and loved it.
2) Wolfe's lover, Aline Bernstein, was out of his life by the time Look Homeward, Angel was published. She never left her family. She was almost 17 years older than Wolfe. In the movie Jude Law and Nicole Kidman look like they're the same age. 3) Wolfe was 6'6" tall as an adult and it completely shaped his identity. He could never, ever fit in anywhere and was stopped frequently by people making jokes at his expense. He wrote the story, "God's Lonely Man" about living as an extremely tall man. And I don't care how much Jude Law overacts, he can't make up that difference. (He's also six years older than Wolfe was at the time he died.) 4) While Aline did attempt to take some pills in the Scribner's offices (in front of Wolfe and Perkins), they immediately responded, calling the night watchman who called a doctor in the building who ascertained that Aline hadn't swallowed any pills. She certainly wasn't left standing by the elevator as she is in the movie. (Berg, 276) 5) Aline did have words with Perkins over Of Time and River because she didn't want to appear as the character Esther Jack (Berg, 242); they did not remain enemies. Perkins' daughter Peggy actually apprenticed with her after college. 6) Wolfe met Fitzgerald once (in Paris), and exchanged some very interesting letters with him, but they never met in Hollywood (although Wolfe did visit there once). They never had dinner at the Perkins' house and he never met Zelda. 7) During the editing Of Time and the River, Perkins lived in a townhouse on E. 49th Street, a short walk to Scribners. He and Wolfe worked on the manuscript in the Scribner's offices . They never drank and edited in a bar. And Perkins NEVER would have drunk from a pint bottle on a fire escape as he does in the movie. 8) Wolfe did not roll in a wheelbarrow of handwritten manuscript when he submitted Of Time and the River. He always had a typist (even as he was writing on the fridge!) She would pick up his pages and type them as he worked. It was submitted in stages. 9) Both Wolfe and Perkins had very little interest in music, so of course he never took Perkins to a nightclub in Harlem and propositioned women in front of him. 10) The reasons why Wolfe left Scribners are much more complicated than presented in the movie. Yes, people were writing about the "Scribner's assembly line" and Wolfe left himself open to that charge, but there were also three lawsuits that complicated things further. And Perkins knew that Wolfe was writing about Scribners people and his loyalty was to Scribners. It was excruciating for both men. 11) Wolfe did not write his final letter to Perkins after brain surgery (he never regained consciousness). He wrote that letter when he was in the hospital in Seattle with pneumonia. (That's got to be the hokiest scene that I've witnessed in a long time---and it didn't happen that way.) 12) The final scene in the movie didn't happen that way either.
A much more touching, actual event occurred when Perkins went to New Jersey in February 1938 (after Wolfe left Scribners) and testified on Wolfe's behalf in a trial where Wolfe was suing a dealer to get back his original manuscripts.Wolfe and another witness who was a friend of both men, Belinda Jelliffe, were so touched by the fact that Perkins wore a hearing aid (for the first and last time) because he wanted to make sure he heard the lawyers' questions. He and Wolfe spent time together after Wolfe won the trial, the last time they were together.
I could go on and on. There are so many factual errors in this movie, terrible miscasting and, to cap it all off, in practically every scene Wolfe acts like a "monster" (Scott Berg's term). While he was an extremely complicated man, he wasn't a monster If you asked Max Perkins and Aline Bernstein whether they would have preferred not having Wolfe in their lives, the answer would be a resounding no.
Ignore this movie and go to the source: read Look Homeward, Angel and/or The Short Novels of Thomas Wolfe.
Colin Firth and Jude Law Portray editor Max Perkins and his newest
client, Tomas Wolfe. Perkins is a tight wound package of seriousness,
work being his life. Wolfe is a frenetic writer, eating up everything
around him with voracity. The polar opposites take on Wolfe's first
novel, "Look Homeward, Angel." I admit, Law's Wolfe is energizer- bunny
out-of-control frenetic at times, but it's that kind of mind that gave
us one of the greatest (if not the greatest) American novels of all
time. Having read "Angel," I completely bought into it. The
relationship between editor and writer becomes extremely close, at
times casting aside the women in their lives. Laura Linney is Louise
Perkins, devoted wife to Max and their 5 daughters. She is also trying
to keep her own writing career alive, with little help from her work
obsessed husband. Nicole Kidman is Aline Bernstein, a married woman
currently shacking up with Wolfe. She was his inspiration in writing
"Angel" and is over zealously jealous of Tom's relationship with Max.
Like, seriously, wack-job crazy. This role was the weak link for me,
didn't like her from her second appearance on screen. The movie moves
through their lives, another published book, and on to Wolfe's untimely
death. (I am pretty sure that isn't a spoiler.) I don't want to go in
to the plot anymore, except to say that I agree with another reviewer
about the scene in the jazz club. A really great way to show how minds,
and the streaming of thought, can be so different between people.
The cinematography is beautiful, sepia tones bring you back to the years right before and during the depression. Extravagance and soup kitchens, back-to-back. The music bangs out with Wolfe's bombastic behavior, and mellows with Max.
This movie is a movie about writers and readers, for what editor isn't a closet writer? It's also for the same audience, with several nods to a few other greats of that period; Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, but mostly, to Wolfe. When Max is reading "Angel" through for the first time, his daughter walks in. She looks at the page and says, "Wow, that's a really long paragraph" and Max answers "It started four pages ago..." THAT is Wolfe. That book was the most difficult book I have ever read. This movie is also about, who exactly is the genius? Wolfe is, obviously. But does that make Max, who edited, made these books marketable, and made Wolfe a celebrity of his day, any less of a genius? That is left for the viewer.
Genius tells the story of Max Perkins, a literary editor who worked
with some of the greats in the early part of the last century, and
primarily about his relationship with Thomas Wolfe.
This movie is pure drama. Colin Firth is excellent as usual (somehow the man is interesting even when saying or doing nothing). Jude Law as well puts in a great, inspired performance as a mercurial Thomas Wolfe. Nicole Kidman, Laura Linney and Guy Pearce round out this powerful and well-chosen cast.
If you like a good drama, you may like this a lot, particularly if you have an interest in early 20th century lit.
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