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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.
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.
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.
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" 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 film plays the period well opening in 1929 when writer Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law), decided to keep the appointment made by Max Perkins (Colin Firth), editor at Scribner's, he had no illusions: his manuscript would be turned down as had invariably been the case. But, to his amazement, his lengthy autobiographical novel 'O Lost', which was to become "Look Homeward, Angel" was accepted for publication. The only trouble was that it was overlong (5,000 pages) and had to be reduced. Although reluctant to see his poetic prose trimmed, Wolfe agreed and helped by Perkins, who had become a true friend, managed to cut 90,000 words from the book, with the result that it instantly became a favorite with the critics and bestseller. Success was even greater in 1935 when "Of Time end the River" appeared but Wolfe's inability to cope with the editing process got in the way of his relationship with his mistress (Nicole Kidman) and with Max, and Wolfe died in 1938 after writing 'You Can't Go Home Again', 'The Web and the Rock' and some short stories. Wolfe remained faithful to his appreciation for Max Perkins and died from tuberculosis of the brain a lonely man at age 38.
The supporting cast is superb – Laura Linney as Louis Perkins, Guy Pearce as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dominic West as Ernest Hemingway – and both Law and Firth carry the story well, maintaining a credible relationship in all its stages. Unfortunately the ending of the film is gushingly saccharine – not at all a good choice. But the movie is a tasty bit of acting and history and deserves to be seen.
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.
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.
One thing before I start - the IMDb message board has to be the only place where people ADMIT they've never heard of Thomas Wolfe, much less read anything he wrote. I'm not sure I would be so forthcoming with that info.
The cast is fantastic: Colin Firth as Perkins, Jude Law as Wolfe, Laura Linney as Mrs. Perkins, and Nicole Kidman as Aline Bernstein, who brings Wolfe's novel to Perkins in real life.
Perkins is shown as a hard-working man, working with people like Fitzgerald and Hemingway and trying to balance his work with family, which consists of a wife and five daughters. He reads Wolfe's 300,000+ word novel and realizes the man is great genius - he also writes too many words. When he talks to Wolfe, he realizes why - he talks too many words, too. He's unmarried and having an affair with stage designer Aline Bernstein. It's a turbulent relationship that lasts around five years.
His relationship with Perkins is turbulent too. At first Wolfe accepts Perkins' drastic cuts in his world; later on, he fights them. Nevertheless, Wolfe becomes a son to Perkins and Wolfe considers him his only friend.
Jude Law and Nicole Kidman are unrecognizable in makeup, hair, and accent, and they both do terrific jobs. Law is a bombastic, exuberant, undisciplined Wolfe; Firth, who actually looks more like Thomas Wolfe than Law, is always excellent. Here he plays a restrained man who allows room for the temperaments of his various writers and attempts to be the voice of reason.
Guy Pearce has a small role as F. Scott Fitzgerald. Something I read said he stole the movie. I love Guy Pearce, I would see him in anything (and have) but to me he wasn't Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald was a sweet-looking man, also a weak and drunken one, and Pearce did not portray that. Probably he did what the script and director dictated.
I found this movie a good story that was not well-paced and on the talky side. I know today we're not used to movies with a lot of dialogue, but there's always room for sharp, witty dialogue as in "All About Eve," for instance. This didn't have enough of that kind of writing and became tedious and sagged in spots.
The end of the film is very touching. I recommend seeing this for the performances.
The problem with this movie is that it fails to show the human side of its characters and even though there is great personal involvement and great weight upon the characters' shoulders, you as the viewer do not feel their pain, stress, or angst. What emotion is reveled is not felt with the same poignant punch that others movies have on their audiences.
The movie is under two hours, but it feels like four. It has a good cast, but the acting is average at best. The story has compelling components but it lacks emotional draw. It is worth a one time watch, but a second watch is unnecessary.
First, this film is a deeply stirring portrayal of the period of time in the western world when the literary atmosphere especially, as well as to an extent that of the arts in general, was at its absolute zenith. Only the very best of the best, most poignant writers were to be published and well-read. At the level of the artists, this meant a culture of creative literati, who inspired one another to the utmost standards of brilliance. I can only imagine sitting and eating with the likes of a few these individuals all at the same table, in this time of unprecedented and never again to be seen creative brilliance, like in the dinner scene in the film. I really believe that many of the successful artists of the era knew very well that they were in the best of times, a time of passion in the arts, and it comes through in their writing. A poignancy and passion that they created and fed themselves.
And at the level of the public, in the reading, this was of great significance in the social consciousness and the talk amongst the educated. In that time, this was still a blossoming means of entertainment, which had been flourishing since the latter half of the 19th century and was not yet replaced by the film industry, nor watered down and devalued because of the affordability of polishing and printing resulting in simpletons being able to achieve popularity in writing, nor mired in society's now complete lack of taste and out of control proclivity for sin and degeneracy.
Indeed, this was an era where your rank and file citizen thought, cared, and discussed about things that the people of modernity today have forgotten to notice, because they are too busy with the obscenity of Nikki Minaj or the latest "New York times best selling" (joke) self help book - an obscenity of equal caliber.
For an insight into what this artistic atmosphere was like, I urge you to read "The Selected Letters of Anton Chekov, edited and with an introduction by Lillian Hellman. Read Hellman's intro as well. This was a gritty time where, like today, only the few and fortunate artists succeeded, but very much unlike today, were typically artists suffering in the worst abject poverty, who climbed to critical acclaim and accolades through their brilliance. Not so in today's atmosphere of film, where over 99% of successful actors had little or no innate talent, and had success handed to them, and then go on to talk about how they did it with hard work and positivity (joke).
No, people like Chekov and the figures in the film were not spoiled and spoon fed by mamma and then handed success by their famous and/or wealthy family members. On the contrary, they hacked out their survival in a sort of wilderness and found success because of their natural talent, and their efforts to refine it. Writing has been dead now for many decades and its modern equivalent is film. And very few actors now find their path to success that way. It is instead handed to most of them through having had good parenting, good social skills, and privileged upper class social opportunities.
Now second, this is a film that has nuance and is so touchingly poignant in itself. A near masterpiece. Some of he choices in the writing were so crucial. I could go on and on. The acting was an absolute tour de force for Law, Pearce, and Firth. Guy Pearce as Fitzgerald was my personal favorite performance. The casting director in their film was also brilliant. I wish I had had the opportunity to act like these three men myself, and with actors of such admirable mastery. It's only failing is that they cast Nicole Kidman, who over acts here with embarrassing melodrama and a theatrical style of acting, which is not appropriate in film at all, much less in this one. However, perhaps even that is appropriate and should not be criticized, because it is believable that the Wolfe character, presenting as a selfish, carnal- minded manic, would be romantically involved with the self centered narcissist Kidman portrays so well as a character here.
I have only ever considered 7 of the thousands of films I've seen to be a 10 - a masterpiece. I usually would rate this film "Genius" a 9. Only about 1 in 500 films is a 9 to me - an extraordinarily high rating. But because of how ridiculous it is that this brilliant film is getting negative criticism from people who have no sense of art or beauty at all, I'm was tempted to rate it a 10.
What is it about? What does the "Genius" reference mean? According to the filmmakers, and it becomes clear when viewing, it is really about both the genius of creative novel writing and the genius of editing a book to bring it to the masses.
The editing genius was Max Perkins, played wonderfully by Colin Firth. He had served as editor for such greats as Ernest Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald. He was a kind and organized man, husband, father of five daughters, but also a bit of a workaholic.
The writing genius was Thomas Wolfe, Southerner from North Carolina, played well by Jude Law. Graduating from high school early and from college at 19 with a BA, he attended graduate school at Harvard, receiving a Master's at 21. He arguably was a genius, and certainly Max Perkins considered his writing genius. But Wolfe was very undisciplined and often rude, at one point he asks Perkins, "Do you expect me to grow up like you?" To which Perkins replies, "No I just expect you to grow up."
Perkins and Wolfe could not have been more different, but Perkins became a sort of father figure for Wolfe and his biggest task was to help him cut down his drafts to size suitable for publishing. Wolfe loved his prose, it was always painful for him to cut anything out.
The movie also includes Nicole Kidman in a good role as Aline Bernstein, a married woman 18 years older who became Wolfe's lover and patron. Plus Laura Linney in a good role as Louise, the wife of Max Perkins. In small but important roles we see Guy Pearce as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Dominic West as Ernest Hemingway.
A really good biographical movie, it is nominally about Perkins but more about his relationship with Wolfe, who died young from tuberculosis of the brain.
It's 1929 and writer Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law) is tapping his foot as he smokes a cigarette while standing on the sidewalk staring at Scribner's Sons Publishing building in New York City. A moment later he is bursting into an office whilst unleashing a rapid-fire blast of words to which our ears can barely keep pace. Taking in the verbal fireworks is an elegantly quiet and eternally hatted man behind the desk. With only the phrase "Mr. Wolfe, we intend to publish your book", editor Max Perkins (Colin Firth) manages to silence the bombastic writer for a few stunned seconds mostly the only time we witness this.
And so begins not so much a friendship as a professional dependency and surrogate father/son relationship. Thomas Wolfe was other-worldly prolific in his ability to craft words into stories. He was also an exceedingly creative workaholic and alcoholic who found his way to Perkins via North Carolina and Harvard. Yes, it's the same Max Perkins who was editor to such literary luminaries as Ernest Hemingway and F Scott Fitzgerald.
Seen as personality polar opposites, we also get to witness the differences within the personal lives of the two gentlemen. Both have strong women at home. Mr. Perkins' wife Louise is played by Laura Linney, and their 5 daughters are smitten with the outlandish behavior and stories of Mr. Wolfe as he visits for dinner. In an unusual twist for the times, an older married woman Aline Bernstein (Nicole Kidman), was Wolfe's lover and supporter even through his carousing and endless nights of work with Perkins.
The red pencil of Perkins is as ever-present as the hat on his head, as he slashes and burns through paragraph after paragraph and page after page of Wolfe's writing in order to fashion an end product that is "marketable". The result was Wolfe's first novel "Look Homeward, Angel" even the title was changed by Perkins. The editing sequences and Perkins' directive for "Big story, fewer words" have us (and Perkins himself) questioning the role of an editor. Do they make the story better or just different? Is marketable more important than the original words of the author? It's a legitimate point of discussion, as it's doubtful anyone told da Vinci that his Mona Lisa should have a bigger smile, or Mozart that The Magic Flute should have fewer notes. Are book editors under-appreciated or overly critical? In the case of the second Wolfe novel "Of Time and the River", Perkins reduced the work by not hundreds, but rather thousands of pages all for the goal of marketability. And it turned out to be Wolfe's best-selling book.
The best scene in the film is also the most insightful. Wolfe drags the always dignified Perkins to a late night jazz club, and with the help of the band, displays in song how Wolfe's brain kicks into writing mode. It's a moment of enlightenment for Perkins, as well as us viewers. Law's Wolfe is a whirlwind of words and prose and those in his path are simply overwhelmed by the enormity of his way. In what feels like a touch of name-dropping, the film tacks on a couple of scenes with Hemingway (Dominic West) and Fitzgerald (Guy Pearce). Though the scenes are a bit heavy-handed, they do serve as a reminder of what terrific writing came from this era, as well as the impact of editor Perkins.
It's a little disconcerting to see the leads in an America tale played by Brits and Aussies, but there is no denying the effectiveness of Firth, Law, et al. It's truly a tale of two geniuses, and Aline was correct after Wolfe, there was "a great hush".
The acting and the depiction of the characters by all actors in the movie was brilliant! Really impressed by Jude Law and Nicole Kidman. Colin Firth was as brilliant as I expected him to be! Thomas Wolfe was amazing as a character and I am really thinking of starting one of his books as I haven't read anything of his.
The movie balances between the personal life of Mr. Perkins and his professional one, getting into the mix all these amazing characters. In the end, I could not help but wonder, if what Thomas Wolfe produced may have also been a side effect of his predicament, although I am almost certain that this was not the case.
This is a really nice movie, a bit of a drama, so you have to be in the mood to watch it, but a damn good one!
Unfortunately, the film was dry precisely because the relationship of an editor with a writer is not very interesting. The film's director was a first-timer with a background primarily in the theatre. In many ways, this project would have been better suited to a stage play produced for the New York intelligentsia.
SPOILER ALERT FOLLOWS: In perhaps the oddest choice of the director, the editor Max Perkins wore his fedora hat everywhere. The hat was worn while working in his office and when he was walking around in his home. It was even worn at the dinner table! For the viewer, it made no sense that Max never removed his hat. The "payoff" of this odd behavior did not come until the very end of the film when the hat was removed after the death of Perkins's beloved client Thomas Wolfe. The hat was a perfect example of a technique that would have worked on the stage, but fell completely flat in the medium of film.
Another major problem with this film was the over-the-top performance of Jude Law in the role of Wolfe. It was never believable that this character was a writer. Law is a good actor, so, the problem was with the direction that allowed the performer to move almost into the area of farce with his consistently manic reactions that appeared as though he were mugging for the camera. Once again, the performance might have been effective in the theatre, but not in the more naturalistic form of cinema.
A nice performance from Nicole Kidman was wasted in the role of Aline Bernstein, the long-suffering lover of Wolfe. It was never made clear why she felt so jealous of Wolfe's relationship with his editor. Conversely, it made no sense why Perkins's wife Louise was completely patient with the time her husband Max spent with Wolfe.
While there was good design work in costumes, sets, and the recreation of New York in the 1930s, "Genius" never shed light on the creative process of the great writers of fiction, and it offered no new perspectives on their lives. Those should have been the goals of this film project, as opposed to the superficial focus on a schlub of a book editor.
A film that talks of the creative process of words can seem draining. It is a universe of hobgoblins and dragons, at times.
The big puzzle is why anyone would want to see 'Genius'. Perhaps for its well-grounded cast: Colin Firth as Perkins, Jude Law as Wolfe, Nickole Kidman as his lover and benefactress and in a minor light Laura Linney as Perkins' wife and mother of his five daughters? It is doubtful Wolfe is much remembered as a writer of long novels more than read today. A failed playwright, 'Genius' is about the relationship between Wolfe and his editor Perkins.
Out of the genius of North Carolina clay that was Wolfe, a poetic and an inexhaustible fount of words, with an endlessly energy for life and love and fun, at heart he was a man-child, with an inflated sense of self. His pencil never stopped writing.
And it was the reserve Perkins who took the tens of thousands of words and with an eye for concision and what makes a novel a novel brings a reluctant awareness to Wolfe of what it is to write a novel, through indirection.
In a way, he took the genius and molded him into a best selling author, first through the publication of 'Look Homeward Angel' and then, of the better selling 'Of Time and the River', forcibly pared back from 5000 handwritten pages to a readable 912 pages, after 24 month of haggling over length and words.
Although he was the editor of such literary luminaries like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Perkins' name will forever be remembered for his blue pencil on Wolfe's novels published by Scribner.
His was a relationship not only of an editor and his writer, but as well as a surrogate father to a son he never had.
Wolfe was a sacred monster: his appetites for women and whiskey let him with few inhibitions. He was a genius in the raw, on one hand, and on the other, so was Perkins a genius with an eye for unveiling talent and genius in writers that he guided in books that made others want to read them.
'Genius' does limp along a lot. It is peppered up with a jealous mistress Nicole Kidman, the uncontrollable ego of Wolfe, his transgressions, his infatuation with self, for he abandons both mistress and father figure, for Harper & Bros. who then published two more doorstops of novels—'The Web and the Rock' and 'You Can't Go Home Again'.
Shy of his 38th birthday in October 1938, Wolfe collapsed and ultimately died of TB of the brain, in the same hospital in Baltimore in which his father did. And, as he kept saying in the film, the river flows out and returns to its source, as he did.
Grandage had a thankless task in bringing "genius' into a likable film or a film that a select audience would enjoy.
Wolfe lived in a golden age of writers—Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Dos Passos, for example. So, drinking and clubbing and jazz travel at a time of great economic disorder; stately buildings and shabby ones give a sense of the wide variety of class and privilege. Don't take this as social commentary, but a way of making dull film palatable.
And even today, who reads Thomas Wolfe? The scholars might claim him, as do Ph.D. candidates. I sincerely doubt book clubs do.
Thomas Wolfe was a bit larger than life and his books are long, long rivers of words, not for everyone's taste but certainly for people interested in writing and in literature.
I did not recognize Jude Law as Wolfe until the very end. I had no idea he was in it. Ironic that Englishmen play the main characters. Why not American actors? Oh well, they did a nice job. I think Law was a tad forced here and there and the southern accent was only so so, but I am still willing to give him some kudos.
I remember the days you could find Thomas Wolfe's novels on the shelf of any decent bookstore. Not so now. Maybe one or two. Maybe. It would be nice if this film turns people's attention back to him (as well as Fitzgerald and Hemingway!)
I don't think it is a great movie, but it is an honorable one.
I love Jude law in this motion picture. He shows up on the screen and you see his face. Then he starts talking like Tom Wolfe and he's like a completely different person with that accent controlling the vibe. I've seen very few films in which the actor has transformed so completely on the screen ( first thing that comes to mind is Anna Karenina). Great performance.
Colin Firth was a little more silent but deadly. He mostly looked on as Jude Law exploded on the big screen, but Firth did have some pretty amusing moments as Max Perkins who gets to feel alive helping to develop the story Wolfe is working on.
Nicole Kidman is still a very beautiful woman. She plays Wolfe's wife, Aline Bernstein who realizes she loosing Wolfe to the male bonding happening with Perkins. This first becomes relevant with a conversation Bernstein has with Louise Saunders who's Perkins wife, played by Laura Linney (another attractive woman). At first the run in they have seemed confusing, but you start see quickly what they are talking about as the two men become engulf in making Wolfe's novels brilliant.
Guy Pearce has a small role in the movie as F. Scott Fitzgerald that's a pretty intense performance. Dominic West also does a small cameo- like performance as Ernest Hemingway
I love the art direction of the film. It places you right in the period. It did not feel at all like CGI or blue screen, I could be wrong , but either Hollywood got ridiculous good at it or there are places in the UK that look like that period.
Genius is a fun film thanks the great acting chops of Jude Law, who nails it.
Then again it's not an easy watch, what with lots of dialog and drama. But the tension it builds (especially concerning the relationships of the characters within) is really great. Flaws are here to be exposed and the actors cherish them, playing them perfectly. It's a period piece and therefor may interest some people more than others. But if you like good drama, you could do worse