The Whole Wide World (1996) Poster

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Definitely a Keeper!
bilborough6419 May 2008
I love listening to the audio commentaries after I've watched a film. It shows me how much the actors or crew members felt making the film. There is a big difference between a film and a movie. A film holds you to your seat because of the quality of the writing and acting. A movie is usually exciting, but it may or may not have persons who can or cannot act in it's line-up. I consider "The Whole Wide World" in the former category. I can't say enough about this film.

The story is simple enough. Vincent D'Onofrio plays Robert E. Howard, arguably the greatest pulp magazine writer of all time. He is the creator of the Conan series of magazine and movie fame. Howard falls in love with Novalyn Price, a woman who wants to be an author, but has no talent. She is played by Renn' Zellweger, who brings fire to this "mousey" character. Price realizes her destiny lays in teaching and pursues that course in her life. Zellweger's performance is exceptional as her 5'5" frame faces down the 6'4" frame of D'Onofrio.

D'Onofrio's performance in this film is beyond exceptional. He kept me emotionally attached to the character of Howard through out the film. I cried at the end.

As one of the producers of this film, D'Onofrio was able to keep the film on track. But something tells me that he believed so much in the film that he took on the problems himself and protected the project. I loved the Greyhound bus, by the way. It was one of his additions.

This film was Dan Ireland's first major film and he did exceptionally well. He knew the caliber of actors he was working with and let them do their job. The actors also let him do his job as well. Surprisingly in the commentary I could tell that he watched his stars and learned from them

Like I said, I can't say enough about this film. I rented it from Netflix and have watched it several times. It is definitely a keeper and my order on Amazon is already in the works.
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A hidden gem
retst211 August 2005
I found this movie while searching through a reduced DVD bin. But once I saw Vincent D'onofrio in the lead I knew I would not be disappointed; and of course I wasn't.

He is one of the most talented and underrated actors gracing the indie screen today. Although he has had several big budget roles (MIB-The Cell to name a couple) he is a character actor and does extremely well with character driven films.

I'd never heard of Robert E. Howard until I watched the WWW and I couldn't think of a better person to introduce him to me than Mr. D'onofrio. The way he portrays his tortured existence and his need for companionship and acceptance was done with such brilliance and conviction, you can really appreciate how much Bob Howard lived inside his own head and yet longed to be part of the world around him.

Renee Zellweger also turned in a notable performance as Novaline Price. She skillfully portrayed the love, hope and irritation she often had for Bob. Together D'onofrio and Zellwegger not only showed the pain of unrequited love, but the richness of friendship.

I recommend this film to anyone looking for great acting, wonderful cinematography and a delightful score. Curl up, turn the lights down, and enjoy. I promise the characters will stay with you long after the final credits.
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This is Perfection
seabreeze-115 May 2005
Before I saw this movie a few years ago, I had never heard of "Robert E Howard". Since then, I've educated myself on who Robert E Howard was...and who Novalynn was. He was extraordinary and she drank him up. It's incredible that someone took her book and made a movie out of the story. Even more incredible is how perfectly it was all orchestrated. The characters were fantastic (Especially Vincent DiOnofrio). The script was great, the filmwork was beautiful, the timing was right on. I will never grow tired of this movie. And I'll continue to turn it onto whoever comes over to my house and hasn't seen it yet. The Whole Wide World is a masterpiece!
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Best Little Movie in the Whole Wide World
shermatz13 September 2005
I was thrilled to read the (almost) unanimous praise for this FANTASTIC little movie by fellow viewers, and I must chime in with my wholehearted agreement. Every once in a while you blunder across an under-financed and straight-to-video movie that just absolutely flattens you with that rare convergence of talent, story & production, and you're reminded anew of just how powerful a film can be.

Most of the previous postings give a good outline of the plot, so I won't recap it here. "The Whole Wide World" is remarkable in all sorts of ways, but I must use my space here to further celebrate the masterful acting of the leads, Vincent D'Onfrio (as Bob Howard) and Renee (as Novalyne Price). Indeed, the skill of the portrayals completely conveys the sense of time, place and emotional temperament necessary to draw us into their worlds--and break our hearts. And yeah, you're just absolutely made of stone if you're not weeping just a little as the credits roll(or trying hard not to). It's testament to D'Onfrio's amazing talent that we can clearly see Bob's misanthropic shortcomings, but still we hope this tragic misfit of a guy can (as another fan wrote here)"meet her half way." A DEEP, insightful performance by Vincent who has quietly been doing the same in lesser roles for decades now.

And I gotta give Renee her full due as well. She was EXCELLENT, fully credible, spiky, tender, flirtatious, frustrated, and ultimately emotionally exhausted trying to figure out this neurotic but strangely charming man she tried to get close to. Seeing this movie reminds me of "Casablanca" in the sense that you can't imagine anyone else in the Bogart & Bergman roles; no doubt other actors would have given their all, but I can't see how anyone other than Vincent & Renee could have spiked our hearts so fiercely.

Who would have ever thought that such a GREAT movie could be made of the abortive love life of Robert E. Howard? Of course that's not really what makes the movie great--as Flaubert said when asked to identify Madame Bovary, he replied "I am;" and so it is with "The Whole Wide World," where we are poignantly reminded of our own failures to engage with life and love in the ways we believe they should play out.

Again, I'm THRILLED to see how many other fans recognize the unique quality of this movie. I encountered it obliquely, noting its synopsis in the New Yorker back in '96 and thinking "what a curious thing to base a movie on." For some reason my sister tracked it down and loaned me a dubbed-from-TV video cassette; crummy video and sound, but the movie still BLEW ME AWAY (and it still does--thankfully it's now available on DVD). Given Renee's star power I don't think it will ever vanish completely, but we can only hope others will take a chance on this little masterpiece so it can one day receive the acclaim its excellence deserves.

I'd also be remiss if I didn't put in a small plug here for Robert E. Howard the pulp fictioneer; it wasn't complete hyperbole for Novalyne to dub him "the best pulp fiction writer..." His writing stands up well today; plenty of brawny page-turning adventure that still delivers fabulous escapist thrills for guys. But if some of us guys can watch this movie and worship it, I'd bet at least a few of the girls can read some Robert E. Howard today and get a sense of the tough-but-hurting guy depicted in the movie. But one certainly need not read Howard to appreciate this amazing movie on its own stellar merits.
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Incredibly beautiful and moving film
funkyfry15 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I have to admit up front, I originally sought this movie out because I'm a dedicated fan of the enigmatic pulp genius Robert E. Howard, who ended his prolific career by a self-inflicted gunshot to the head in 1936. This movie is based on the memoirs of a woman he was involved with named Novalyn Price. So again to be up front, this movie is very pleasing to me as a fan of Bob Howard. It reveals some of the negative aspects of this man (although skimming clear of his extreme racist views, which to be fair he tended to show more in his writing than in his personal behavior) but also shows us a lot of his heart and the beauty of his writer's soul that always found such tortured expression in the famous "Conan" and "Solomon Kane" stories. But I think the movie is going to be just as pleasing to those who are not fans of Howard's writing -- perhaps even more so, because this isn't really a movie just about a writer, it's about a relationship between two writers. And it's a messy, very realistic relationship at that.

This was a very early film for Renee Zellweger, and I was impressed right away with the ability she shows here in this film. None of her subsequent and often acclaimed performances have matched what she did here, opposite the great character actor Vincent D'Onofrio who brings Howard himself to vivid life. The movie is all about these 2 people -- there are no action scenes, there is no real drama except a manufactured drama that Bob Howard creates to compensate for his inadequacy and lack of resolve. There are many powerful scenes where these 2 people are consumed in an atmosphere of natural beauty, which suggests the world of imagination inside these writers -- Novalyn says from the hillside "you can see the whole wide world from up here" and Howard says "other worlds, too." Always the sense of what Bob Howard's imaginary world could look like is bubbling beneath the surface of what we see -- never do the film-makers stoop to any actual visualization of the fantasy universe, but sound effects and music are effectively used to create that sense of his dangerous and exotic fantasy world, while at the same time there is an emptiness around Novalyn's literary aspirations which contrasts with it. There are always two stories battling here -- a love story between two human beings and a sort of journey in stasis between two writers.

There's no way to put into precise words just how incredible I think D'Onofrio's performance is here. Again, as a longtime fan of Bob Howard, I can say that the performance matches my image of him down to the smallest physical mannerisms. As a treat for fans we even get to see Bob in his late phase when he wore a sombrero and liked to walk the streets of El Paso "disguised" as a Mexican. All of Bob's paranoia and his contradictions are on display, and even more fascinating when put into the light of day by dramatic action -- he was a man whose ego demanded absolute self-sufficiency, but who had such deep emotional ties to his small circle of family and friends that he was unable to cope with any kind of loss in his life. The manufactured drama when Bob finds out that Novalyn is dating his friend Truett is just one of the more harmless examples of this, but Novalyn's perspective as expressed in the film enables us to see how deeply Bob Howard's behavior must have hurt and alienated the very people he needed and trusted so deeply. The pain and confusion are brilliantly expressed in Zellweger's performance, and there are also a pair of excellent supporting performances from Ann Wedgeworth and Harve Presnell as the Howard parents.

This is a beautiful film, this is a film that has a world of emotion while having absolutely no stylized or melodramatic plot devices to push us one way or the other in our feelings -- it just unfolds at the pace of its story and draws us in to the lives of 2 people in a particular place and time. They are people who don't seem to fit -- a big awkward hulk of a fantasy writer whose hard working Texan neighbors think he's a sissy, and a headstrong woman trying to make a career for herself in the same conservative universe. But through the eye of this cinematic gem, they both seem to belong in this time and place and we feel as if they left a bit of their hearts behind in their writings so that we could discover it with them.
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A gem of a Movie based upon a Great and Original Book.
vitaleralphlouis14 February 2006
A wonderful romantic movie and obviously a labor of love for all concerned in its production. "One Who Walked Alone" as a miraculously excellent memoir, written by Novaline Price-Ellis decades after the events portrayed, based upon notes she had written at the time. The interplay between Novaline and Robert is mostly conversations when he takes her for a drive and "shoots off his mouth." Here's the greatest action writer in history, with worldwide fans, living with his mother in a town where nobody sees him as either hero or star, just a big over-sized hunk who lives with his folks. Vincent d'Ofrino is ALWAYS a joy to watch and Rene Zellwiger can always be depended upon for a solid performance. As for sex appeal, Rene is definitely not a plump or fat Brigit Jones but rather she's slender, lithe, and not heavy enough to hold down a job as a paperweight. In other words, just what this 6'4" hunk goes after --- every time. But aside from that, Whole Wide World is the kind of great movie you'll never forget. Search for it in VHS or DVD and go to a specialty store if need be.
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A little giant among films
egret127 May 2005
This is an easy vote. A real, well acted old time story of star crossed loves. Cutting edge acting by Vincent D'Onofrio as Robert and his girl Rene Z. An emotional, tender, and heartbreaking story. Both actors pull out your emotions and put them through the wringer. Beautifully filmed and the music fits the mood. Vincent was perfect. His intense face, which he uses as an emotional barometer, captures and relays the tortures Robert E Howard experienced. It is how films used to be - memorable. This was Rene Z's first serious work, and I will say she has never come close again in touch the emotional triggers although she is big box office. Her thanks to Vincent on receiving her first Academy awards speaks volumes " Thank you Vincent for teaching me how to work." They were a lovely team together with a special bond both actors created together. I did not want to leave the characters and return to reality. In closing, this "little movie" budget wise and distribution wise, is actually a far greater achievement then it's modest budget could foresee. This film should have been dubbed as one of the greats instead of shelved and forgotten.
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The Whole Wide World ... Should See This Movie
nobodyz18 October 2009
Set in 1930's small town Texas are two unlikely characters: one who is an accomplished writer and one who "wants to be". Their journey is a rare story these days (writing this in 2009) in writing or on the screen. Not since watching "84 Charring Cross Road" have I applauded such realism. Bob Howard, famed author of "Conan the Barbarian" is seen as he was in real life through the eyes of an unusually brave woman, Novalyne Price (the story taken directly from her book "One Who Walked Alone").

Howard (played by Vincent D'Onofrio) was a real loner who found himself in love; an impossible situation for any recluse, let alone a perhaps misunderstood misanthropic one. Price (played by Rene Zellweger), carries the other hard end of the bargain, a sociable yet independent single woman in 1930's Texas who's burden of loving him is even more unimaginable to bear, but not in any of the trite ways one might think. Most of us cower from those who do not "behave" as society dictates, or to be more blunt, as our loved ones dictate; Price does and doesn't, in a classy yet grounded blend of grace. Both characters are surprising and totally human. Shot in only 24 days, this "little" movie is a buy-to-own keeper. No wonder Zellweger went on to movie stardom after this role.

To quote Rene, her performance is in part "Many thanks to Vincent". An amazing portrait of the best of both actor's range of talent. Recommended highly.
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Painful to Watch...
Bulworth-25 September 1999
It's a good film, but it's absolutely painful to watch, as you repeatedly wish they'd put aside their insecurities and get together. The best screen kiss in recent memory is in this film and it gives you a taste of the power they would've had if they would've always stayed together, instead of straying alone. One of the most emotionally abusive films of the last year, it's more of a realistic romance instead of the perfect one featured in films such as "You've Got Mail". This and many other films serve as a reminder that most great romances are not without torturous actions from both halves.
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fascinating film with top performances
leslieann-14 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This film covers themes of how people are creative and, also, how love can fade - the demands the odd writer makes on the more conventional school teacher who is intrigued by him are too great for her, although she tries - it is her own wish to be a writer that leads her to him shamelessly - and it is mixed in with her dream of who she might be. d'Onofrio turns in a convincing performance - and despite the oddness of the writer he portrays, we are charmed by him - no mean feat. and i think Renee Zelwenger gives one of the best performances i've seen from her - without that cutesy stuff she does aimed at seducing men. it is as good as she was in Cold Mountain. This is not a big screen film,however, and yet it is powerful for all that.
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Amazing, Must-See Movie
janniejaye5 February 2007
If there was only 1 movie ever, I would suggest anyone to watch, this would be the movie that I would suggest. I came across it on Netflix, DVD rentals, and rented it because the storyline seemed interesting, and I like Renee. I had never heard of this movie, and at the time it came out in 1996, I was working too many hours to even know what was in the movie theaters. Vincent D'Onofrio is more than amazing in this role, and should have been nominated and won the Oscar for this part. For me, his portrayal of his character in this movie is the best I have ever seen any actor do. Vincent's portrayal brings out Renee's character beautifully; how could she not act like she did, working against such an amazing actor. This screenplay is beautifully written, from Novalyne Price-Ellis's true book she wrote herself, covering her relationship with Robert E. Howard. I had no idea who he was, but after this movie, have read up on his life, and will purchase Novalyne's book, "One Who Walked ALone", from which this movie was taken. Great directing, screenplay, photography, acting, music; a movie that could not have been put together any more beautifully. BRAVO to all, thank you for one of the best movie experiences I have had, at the age of 48. Shame on whomever did not spend the money to distribute and advertise the heck out of this movie when it came out in 1996. I will purchase the DVD, and will buy it for gifts for many, but wish they had put more in the "special features", than only Renee's chat. Why not all of the "deleted scenes", "the making of", etc...Janet, NYC, Feb 2007
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two good performances
SnoopyStyle26 May 2015
Warning: Spoilers
It's 1933 Brownwood, Texas. Schoolteacher Novalyne Price (Renée Zellweger) is introduced to successful pulp writer Robert E. Howard (Vincent D'Onofrio). He's most famous for the sword and sorcery series 'Conan the Cimmerian'. She's struggling to get her stories published. He's a man outside of the conventional world living with his parents. They have an up and down relationship that ultimately ends when he kills himself after the death of his protective mother.

These are two good performances of an interesting relationship. It's a little unconventional and restricted by the reality of his death. I also wonder if it's better to be a straight biopic of Robert. His life is the far more interesting one and there are possible avenues to explore. Their relationship never seems to go to the next level which his death cuts short. I would really like to see more of his relationship with his mother and his professional life. Nevertheless, this is an interesting relationship that is different from most movies.
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Good but repetitive
jamesowen-229 January 2006
Clearly from the comments previously posted about this film there is a fan-base out there for it, but one which this audience member finds surprising. There is more to 'The Whole Wide World' than most Hollywood romances, indeed it's refreshing to have a decent rom without the annoying com.

The problem is the succession of arguments between the two lead characters becomes so repetitive that although this film runs for under two hours it repeats itself and eventually becomes quite boring.

As pulp writing legend Robert Howard, the alternatively sexy Vincent D'Onofrio is on good form, allowed to exercise his unique ability to deliver bellowed diatribes, and Renée Zellweger performs well in the role of a meek-yet-spitfired-girl-next-door-teacher-type turned on by a brilliant outcast, a character which surely engages the bookish fantasies of the female audience this chick flick will most likely appeal to, as she becomes a heroine for ultimately tolerating Howard's volatile insecurities. Ain't that always the way, huh ladies?

Taken from that characters true life memoirs the script is centred firmly on her experience of Howard which leaves the characters slightly one dimensional, and we actually learn very little about a potentially fascinating man, indeed we shouldn't think of this as being a film about Howard or whatever made him tick.

Special mentions goes to the very last scene is a typically saccharine Hollywood ending, with obvious conclusions presumably reiterated to elicit tears.

So what do we have? A watchable if repetitive and melodramatic romance that's slightly better than most Hollywood offerings. Nothing less, and, despite what some hyperbolic reviews say here, certainly nothing more.
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Dating Conan the Barbarian's creator in the heart of Texas in 1934-1936
Wuchakk12 September 2018
Released in 1996, the movie focuses on budding writer Novalyne Price Ellis (Renée Zellweger) and her experiences with famous pulp writer, Robert E. Howard (Vincent D'Onofrio), creator of Conan the barbarian and other characters, like Kull, Solomon Kane and Red Sonya. The events take place in central Texas (Cross Plains and Brownwood) during the last two years of Howard's life, 1934-1936, and are based on Novalyne's memoirs "One Who Walked Alone" and "Day of the Stranger: Further Memories of Robert E. Howard." Ann Wedgeworth is on hand as Robert's sickly mother.

Howard's great imagination and expertise with words made him "the greatest pulp fiction writer in the whole wide world," as he was known. Unfortunately he died way too young at the age of 30 but, thankfully, he was prolific and so we have a lot of material by him to enjoy. It has always been a mystery to me why this talented man died the way he did, but this film gives life to REH's last two years and helps the viewer understand what happened.

This is a true-life drama with elements of romance consisting of the simple way of life of a writer, his parents and friends in the plains of central Texas in the mid-30s. Most of the sequences take place at the quaint Howard abode, the theater in Brownwood, the school where Novalyne taught and, mostly, Robert & Novalyne driving the desolate landscapes or walking and talking, sometimes in conflict. In other words, this is a simple drama. The potency comes with the subject matter, Robert E. Howard. I found the drama gripping as insights emerge in the dialogues and other sequences.

The film runs 1 hour, 51 minutes and was shot in the heart of Texas (Austin, Bartlett, Bastrop and Rockne).

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Most Underrated Film of the Last 20 Years, at least
Dave_Violence16 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this film at the theater - with, I think five other people. I was the only male human in the crowd, the rest were middle-aged women, no doubt "chick flick" fans. Not what I expected... I had assumed that I'd have to carve a path through the Corsairs before claiming my seat! The smell of death was all around, the floor slippery with the blood of those slain in battle...

Oops, got ahead of myself. I'm a big fan of Robert E. Howard's work, especially Conan (though Solomon Kane is a great character as well). His personal "weirdness" is well-documented, etc., etc. The film pulls no punches about it at all...

This is a film for writers - especially "new" writers who "need" to learn the history of American heroic fiction - because the Weird Tales days represented the pinnacle of that genre. It's also a film for high school English teachers; I'd make it mandatory. The reason is that REH's contributions to the body of American literature is genuinely important. Without his successes (he made money off his writing), I suspect August Derleth wouldn't have been as successful at publishing and thus Ray Bradbury wouldn't have been as successful as he is.

Everyone: watch this film, study this film, seek out Robert E. Howard's books. If you are unfamiliar with the GREAT writing Howard, Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, et al, this film will introduce the early 1930's pulp writer's world to you...

As Robert E. Howard, Vince D'Onfrio gives what I think is his absolute best performance. What he's doing in Law & Order: CI, or whatever supporting roles he gets (MIB, etc.), and his future roles, are never going to be this good. In fact, a lot of them aren't worth bothering with at all (e.g., The Cell).

It's also the only movie with Renee Zellweger worth watching (OK, Jerry Maguire's good). Yeah, hers is the main character, but she's perfectly cast, rather than (hey, I'm entitled to my opinion) the astonishingly successful mis-casting her as a vamp in anything...

MINOR SPOILERS Best scene: we see Robert E. Howard typing out a story - and he's yelling out the action at the typewriter.

Disappointment: H.P. Lovecraft is mentioned in one scene, but I wish they had another scene regarding the letter-writing relationship between HPL and REH, among others.

I wrote to L. Sprague De Camp (who was alive in 1996) about this film (De Camp owned the rights to all things REH and is responsible for REH's being hoisted out of obscurity 40 or so years ago) and about Kull (ugh) - another REH-created film. He sent me back an autographed picture!
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The ending is very sad and heartbreaking
Kalaman23 November 2002
I stumbled on this sad little romance by accident a while ago. The story is a trifle: mostly syrupy and sentimentally forced. But I thought the ending was very sad and heartbreaking. It enabled me to view the film again and rethink it. It worked for me on the second viewing; I found out this is a true story, based on a memoir by Novalyne Price about her brief love affair with Robert E. Howard. It is honest and truthful, with superb performances by Renee Zelleweger and especially Vincent D'Onofrio.

The film deserves to be seen more than once to fully appreciate it.
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Discover this little gem for yourself! Amazingly touching!
deacon_blues-314 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
What can one say about such a little known gem of a film as this one? It is obviously a labor of love for all concerned. I was so surprised to find this film that I just had to see it ASAP. Anyone who is a fan of true love stories, or of the early days of the pulp fiction industry will be charmed to encounter this story of one of the greatest and most original talents in the history of popular literature: Bob Howard.

Today his name has lost much of its original luster. It's easy to write him off as just another odd-ball who killed himself and good-riddance. But when you stop to realize that the creator of the Conan saga was at the time of his suicide the most famous writer of pulp fiction in the world, you begin to realize the importance of this story. If Howard had survived his grief over his mother's terminal illness, he would undoubtedly be ranked with names such as J.R.R. Tolkien and Stephen King by this time. After all, he did single-handedly create the entire Sword & Sorcery genre!

H.P. Lovecraft realized the greatness of Howard's talent from the beginning, and became his mentor. He even tried to help him overcome his perverse attachment to his mother and keep him from the deep depression that eventually led to his demise. But he lived in Rhode Island, and could only write Bob letters. If Novalyne Price had not been away at LSU at just that time, she may have been the one to pull him through his darkest hour, and who knows what the consequences might be today? Of course all such speculation is at last futile, and I intend no blame or unkindness toward Novalyne Price Ellis. What happened, happened for a reason only God knows. But I find it fascinating to think about.

As a true love story it is one of the most unusual and interesting you will ever encounter. D'Onofrio is masterful as usual in juggling all the complexities of Howard's personality. Zellweger is perfect as the ever-conflicted Novalyne, who never knows whether to love Bob, admire him, abhor him, fear him, or hate him.

It is telling indeed that this was Price Ellis' first and only book, written when she was a retired English teacher at the age of 76! Although she insisted that she never really loved Bob Howard, she usually did it with tears in her eyes, as witnesses will tell you.
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not much to be learned about Howard or his writing from this; just a story of unsuccessful love
FieCrier28 January 2005
This is a nice movie, nicely shot and well-acted, but there was some kind of lack of depth to it that kept me from liking it more.

A problem for me was that we learn so little about Robert E. Howard. We don't learn much about his writing in the movie either. The movie begins when he is already regularly being published in the pulps. We don't really learn anything about events prior to that. We don't know much about his relationship with his mother and father, or his two male friends. Everything is pretty much from Novalyne's knowledge of him, and while I understand that the film was based on her memoirs of him, I wish other sources about his life had been delved into. Perhaps not much more is known, in which case I suppose it is better or fairer not to speculate.
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Movie's Heart is as big as the Whole Wide World
Fossedancer826 November 2002
I saw online that this movie would be on TV and, since I love Renee Zellweger, I decided to give it a try. What I found was a rare movie that combines a tragic yet realistic romance with over-the-top performances that make the movie worth watching. For some it might get off to a slow start, but stay with it if you're the least bit interested. I made the mistake of playing around on the computer the first time I watched it, and I missed a lot. This movie deserves your full attention.

Based on the memoir by Novalyn Price about her relationship with pulp writer Bob Howard, the film does an excellent job of showing the on-and-off romance between grade-school teacher Novalyn and full-time writer Bob from both sides. Novalyn truly likes Bob, even loves him at one point, but Bob rides her off, saying "he can't be tied down." But once Novalyn starts dating Truett Benson, Bob's friend, Bob suddenly realizes what a special person Novalyn is and that he can't live without her. He tries several attempts to win her back, but all end either in tears or a fight. Every time Novalyn tries to give him a second chance to prove he loves her, he goes and spends all his time caring for his sick mother, not leaving her for a second. I know you're saying, "What's wrong with that? It just means he loved his mama." But as Novalyn points out, Bob is a grown man who should be leading his own life and being able to let go of his mother and get out once in awhile.

While most movies like these just go on and on about how one person can't live without the other, this one has you wondering if the two will really end up together. And unlike most romances where you're waiting for them to unlock lips, "Wide World" takes many twists and turns in the romance department;you may think you know what's going to happen, but you really don't [unless you already know the complete full story of Howard's life].

The performances by the two leads alone make the movie worth watching;anyone who appreciates good acting should definitely check this one out. Vincent D'Nofrio is amazing, in a performance that would make the real Bob Howard proud I'm sure. He was really overlooked and should have gotten way more recognition for this role. If his other movies are as good as this, it's really sad he doesn't have a more well-known career. There is some justice in the world though, because Renee Zellweger has gone on to become a major star after this part, as she should have. She has a warmth and sincerity that comes across in her acting and makes you root for her the whole time. You often forget she's acting because her delivery is so natural, and she has several emotional scenes to show her depth. I;m a big fan of hers, and this movie didn't disappoint. It's too bad this movie didn't get more recognition, but do yourself a favor and catch it the next time it's on TV. You won't be sorry.
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A wonderful love story
dbalance2326 January 2003
Usually I treat "love stories" with a thinly veiled contempt. Call me cynical, but most are contrived, sappy, and predictable. The Whole Wide World is anything but, and like most stories that break your heart, it's a true one - not something created by the overactive imagination of a Hollywood exec.

The basic story: based on the memoirs of Novalyne Price, The Whole Wide World is her recollection of the relationship she had with Conan creator and pulp fiction writer, Robert E. Howard, before his tragic suicide. The time period is 1930's and the place is small town Texas. Novalyne is a school teacher who wishes to be a published writer, and Howard is already established as a pulp fiction maverick. Both are in their late 20's.

The performances in this film are outstanding. Vincent D'Onofrio practically leaps off of the screen. His character is infuriating, heartbreaking, yet so fragile. Renee Zellweger filmed this movie just before she got the call to appear in Jerry Macguire, and she shines as Novalyne Price. Price was a smart, witty, and stubborn lady - in a time when such things were not considered very ladylike. Novalyne and Robert were introduced by a mutual acquaintance, and thus began their disjointed and devoted friendship.

There was obviously so much love between them, but circumstances, Howard's mental illness, and his unreasonable devotion to his mother prevented the ir relationship from ever reaching it's potential. The film shows their ups and downs and the connection they had between them. It's a tragic, very real human story and more than worth two hours of your time. Just make sure you have a tissue ready because it is a tear jerker. It never lowers itself to petty sentimentality though. The Whole Wide World will touch you via pure emotional story telling - kudos to the writer who adapted Price's novel.

It's criminal that the DVD and video are not available in the United States! Various cable channels are playing it regularly, and the DVD is available in Canada. Try to catch it if you can!
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marcosaguado14 March 2004
What a nice surprise. Romantic, without being corny Intelligent, without ever being pretentious or high brow. Moving, without ever falling into sentimentality. Renee Zellweger's performance is, without question, her best. And Vincent D'Onofrio is just heart breakingly wonderful. What an underrated actor he is. The movie never falls into the usual common places, it keeps you longing for their love to bloom. The score is also superb. Most highly recommended.
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An underrated wordsmith...
poe4269 March 2002
***SPOLIERS*** Robert E. Howard was an underrated wordsmith whose stories almost singlehandedly defined the "heroic fantasy" genre. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Howard was a genuinely gifted writer- and, like Poe and Lovecraft, his work went unheralded for a time following his death. This remarkable movie touches on some of the reasons behind Howard's untimely death- but overlooks others entirely: his almost hand-to-mouth existence; his father's gratis work for local folks who couldn't afford to pay for medical attention they received; his mother's extended hospital stay(s); his desperate, written pleas to WEIRD TALES editor Farnsworth Wright for monies due him (Howard was owed around a thousand dollars for published stories at the time of his death- money he desperately needed). "A monthly check from WEIRD TALES," Howard wrote, "may well mean the difference between a life that is at least endurable- and God alone knows what." He told August Derleth: "I don't want to live to be old. I want to die when my time comes, quickly and suddenly, in the full tide of my strength and health." A beautiful and moving film that might've delved just a little deeper into the soul of the man himself.
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Astounding Performance By D'Onofrio
jhclues16 April 2001
After retiring from teaching, lifelong aspiring writer Novalyne Price wrote her first book at age 76, `One Who Walked Alone,' a memoir dedicated to the memory of pulp fiction writer Robert E. Howard, and upon which this film, `The Whole Wide World,' directed by Dan Ireland, is based. The film paints a soul wrenching portrait of a man who was larger than life in the world of his own creation, but who was a socially inept, self-proclaimed `lummox' in the real world, who had an unhealthy devotion to his sickly mother and had trouble expressing his true feelings to the woman he obviously loved. To Novalyne Price-- as well as his legions of devoted readers-- Howard was the greatest pulp writer in the whole wide world. But to him, living in a small town in Texas in the ‘30s, that world was populated by `maggots of corruption,' and was a dangerous place filled with outlaws, thieves and robbers. He masked his true poetic nature with an outwardly gregarious manner and bravura, which, along with his self-imposed exile from society made his on-again-off-again relationship with Price nearly insurmountable. To the world, he gave Conan the Barbarian and some of the greatest action adventures ever written; to Novalyne he gave the sunrise, the sunset and the moon, but was incapable of giving himself, telling her, `The road I walk, I walk alone.' Not that it was what he wanted, but it was all he knew how to do in the `real' world, which he sadly never learned to negotiate.

Working from a sensitive, extremely well written screenplay by Michael Scott Myers, Ireland compassionately explores Howard's world through the eyes of Novalyne Price. What we see is an enigmatic, lonely man struggling with the demons of his soul, who escapes to the worlds of his fantasies in order to cope with life. He is most comfortable talking about his work, and the lands of his imagination. When relating one of his `yarns, as he called his stories, he is on his feet, swelling his chest and becoming Conan, sword in hand, battling beasts and enemies and rescuing scantily clad women from harm. He is transported by his own characters, and watching, the audience is taken along with him, swept away by the passion in his eyes and the sounds of clanking swords. When he writes, he speaks his words aloud, passionately losing himself in the story even as he is creating it. And these scenes, backed by the captivating score by Hans Zimmer and Harry Gregson-Williams, are especially powerful and emotionally riveting, which underscores the action and heightens the emotional level and the viewers involvement with the characters and the story. Ireland juxtaposes the intimacy of the story with some stunning visuals and superb cinematography that will keep Howard and Price in your memory long after the film has ended. It's terrific work by Ireland, and deserving of the highest acclaim.

In a criminally unacclaimed and overlooked performance, Vincent D'Onofrio is absolutely astounding in the role of Bob Howard. The work he does here can stand alongside the best performances of the greatest actors. In this film, he IS Howard, physically and emotionally, from the inside out. He captures every emotion, vividly, with nuance and to perfection; the repressed feelings, the constant, inner turmoil of the man who had confidence in the one thing he knew how to do-- write-- but who also recognized that he was a misfit who lacked even the basic, everyday skills of survival. It's a painful portrait of a tortured individual to whom one can relate and empathize because of D'Onofrio's consummate skill as an actor. It's simply a staggeringly powerful and memorable performance.

Renee Zellweger gives an excellent performance, as well, as Novalyne Price, this somewhat progressive, though rather straight-laced young woman frustrated time and again in her attempts to break through the complexities of this man to whom she is ready to devote her life. It's an endearing portrait of a strong, yet vulnerable woman willing to forego many of the conventions of the times for the man she loves, if only he would meet her halfway. She creates a character with whom you can readily sympathize and identify, making Novalyne very real and her relationship with Howard believable. It's a beautiful piece of work, for which-- like D'Onofrio-- she did not receive the attention she deserved.

The supporting cast includes Ann Wedgeworth (Mrs. Howard), Harve Presnell (Dr. Howard), Benjamin Mouton (Clyde), Michael Corbett (Booth), Helen Cates (Enid), Leslie Berger (Ethel) and Chris Shearer (Truett). There's life as we'd like it to be, and life as it really is, and `The Whole Wide World' is a masterfully presented character study that succinctly examines that situation. It's an insightful and emotionally gripping film that explores human nature and the often incomprehensible workings of the mind that compel individuals to do what they must do. In the end, it's a film that will touch you in many ways, and will linger in your thoughts for more than just a little while. I rate this one 10/10.
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historically and biographically accurate
ursulahemard26 May 2015
This is actually a very lovely movie indeed. Everybody has heard of the pulp fiction stories of Conan the Barbarian but only hard core fans do know the story behind its writer Robert E. Howard, who created this fantasy hero in 1932. Unfortunately he died at the age of only 30. In his short very productive life he enjoyed literary success but had also, though inspiring and romantic, a not quite fulfilling love affair with Novalyne Price Ellis. The movie is historically and biographically correct. Very prettily filmed and characterisations seem to be truthful with accents and all. I definitely learned something new and enjoyed the skillful and atmospheric movie-making.
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Excellent film
Jam22718 November 2009
Instead of watching another "so-so" movie, give this one a try. There's not a lot of action (no car chases, etc.), but it is an intelligent movie with good acting, good writing, and a story you probably never heard. I am not a Renee Zellweger fan but as this is one of her earlier films, she is watchable. She is very good as a small town teacher/writer wanna be. Vincent D'Onofrio is great in the lead. It is hard to believe he is a New Yorker as he becomes this troubled Texan. You will probably cry at least once while watching it. The DVD was actually cut, leaving out some "not essential(?)" portions that would have made the movie better.
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