Michael Grandage’s GENIUS
Review by Dennis D. McDonald
This is an unusual film. It's about the relationship between a famous editor and a famous author, Max Perkins of Scribner's and Thomas Wolfe of look LOOK HOMEWARD ANGEL fame.
Perkins discovered Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and then Wolfe in the 1920’s. Wolfe today may not be as revered as the other two but the story as told here is illuminating, quirky, and highly emotional.
Wolfe was an eccentric. The manuscripts he brought to Perkins were outlandishly long. They required much work and many long and painful hours of editing and rewriting. But the movie is not really about books but the relationship that evolves between Perkins and Wolfe and how that relationship impacts their personal lives.
Perkins is a workaholic. Working with Wolfe takes him even further away from his family. Wolfe is narcissistic and self-obsessed. He does his best to turn those who love him against him.
This is a gorgeously produced and wonderfully acted film. Hearing Colin Firth, Jude Law, and Nicole Kidman with "American" accents is a bit jarring at first, but you soon accommodate that. Laura Linney and Guy Pearce also make appearances as the story progresses over the years. Visually the movie is sumptuous with its reproduction of New York City in 1929 and the 1930s both somber and lovely. While the majority of the film focuses on human interactions there are a few crowded street scenes that are awash with motion, sound, physical detail, and costumes. The special effects used in such cases are excellent.
It's an engrossing story. There's not much humor but much feeling as well as wonderful dialogue and performances.
It's also fun to watch Perkins red-line his way through the page proofs of a Hemingway novel as he cuts out words, sentences, and paragraphs. You don't see that type of action in many movies these days!
Review copyright © 2017 by Dennis D. McDonald