For Reel

Hemingway & Gellhorn (2012)
July 1, 2012, 11:58 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Philip Kaufman

It is difficult to understand how it is that HBO has continued to produce such consistently great television (including the occasional mini-series, such as last year’s Mildred Pierce) while their features have remained bland and tedious at best. Hemingway & Gellhorn, to no surprise, has impeccable production values, but its script is, if admirable in the sense that it intends to be historically exhaustive, dramatically repetitive. As the two authors travel everywhere from Finland to China, director Philip Kaufman reliably shows us examples of Martha Gellhorn’s integrity, Ernest Hemingway’s stubborn pride, and the series of clashes that they find themselves in. That the couple remains at an emotional stalemate is largely the point – Gellhorn, much more than any of his other three wives, is uniquely well-matched for the bestial Hemingway – however Owen never manages to humanize the over-the-top brute, no more than Corey Stoll had intended to in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. Over-the-top is perhaps the optimal description for the picture, best illustrated in the consummation of the titular lovers’ romance – the film figuratively pauses for a steamy display between its attractive stars, writhing in bed as their hotel is bombed and ceiling debris rains down over their sweaty flesh. Had the film maintained such a high level of camp, it might have been interesting, but Kaufman’s Forrest Gump-esque method of incorporating the actors into archival footage is both a thin gimmick and oft-times offensive, as when images of the prisoner corpses in Dachau are exploitatively used in an effort to fabricate shallow drama.

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