At first rather annoying in its heavy emphasis on reenactments, this movie ultimately proves fascinating, simply because the complicated, highly dramatic tale it tells still almost defies belief.
The film creates a perfect balance between action and depth of basic needs, in the midst of an infertile atmosphere.
The film never slows down or bores, plunging from one harrowing sequence to the next.
Watching this movie, it occured to me how very slender Hemingway's output really was. In short story output -- short stories being his main event -- writers like Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike surpass him in quality and output. They, however, shunned the spotlight although they did get their share of it
After the execrable HBO fiasco HEMINGWAY AND GELHORN, I was very wary of Hemingway movies. But this modestly charming film about a young reporter who looks up to the aging Hemingway as a father figure in his final days is surprisingly touching and authentic. Adrian Sparks is amazing as the aging lion Hemingway. What he puts across is not so much the publicity-hungry tough guy the world remembers, but the shy, reclusive author tortured by sadness and regret and the sense of loss. This is a Hemingway who has accomplished so much but feels deep down that on almost every human level he blew it. The sadness makes it easier to understand the binge drinking and the rage. Joely Richardson is terrific as Mary Hemingway, Ernest's fourth and final wife. Not only is she tough, beautiful and classy enough to imitate Marlene Dietrich and match Papa drink for drink, but you can see her enormous sadness even when she's laughing her head off. This woman has seen Hemingway at his greatest and now she's stuck with what's left of him . . . but she never gives in to despair. Now I have to say that the young reporter's story is not nearly as compelling as the lion in winter stuff. Ed Myers is what they call a "Mary Sue" in fan fiction. He's just a stand-in for the viewer, like, "it would be so cool if I got to hang out with Hemingway in Cuba! I bet he'd teach me stuff and we'd go fishing and just hanging around with him would make that pretty girl at the office fall crazy in love with me!" There's nothing about this guy that explains why Hemingway (or anyone else) would adopt him as a son. Or why the prettiest girl in the office would fall madly in love with him.One final thought: if you wonder how Hemingway himself would have viewed this story of his last days there's a very interesting early story he wrote called "The Battler." It's about how a teenage Nick Adams (really Hemingway himself) comes across a washed up champion prize fighter who's gone punch drunk and become a hobo. The man drifts from town to town in a permanent daze cared for by a single black servant who is really more of a keeper. The champ's ex wife is denounced as a tramp but ultimately it's revealed that she sends the champ money every month so he can drift around and not starve. When I was a kid I wondered what the point of the story was. I think it's Hemingway acknowledging the limits of his own values. You can be the big, tough, famous white guy, you can be the champ at what you do, but in the end the people who are supposed to "serve" you (women and blacks) will end up owning you. Winner take nothing!This movie tells that story, in a way. But it also suggests a more human possibility of redemption, when Hemingway tells the kid, in effect, "don't be like me. Learn from my mistakes." The resolution is pretty cheesy (the pretty girl at the office? Really?) But at least they were trying to imagine the possibility of hope. Hemingway could have used a little of that himself!
This movie was a breath of fresh air among the mind numbing trash that is produced lately. Honest review of the human condition. This is the first movie review that I have ever written and it may be the last. I feel we should reward work that is so honest and reveals the human condition in all of its glory and but also in its selfishness and sin. We live in a black and white world. We want everything to fit nicely in a box but it never does. Movies like this normalize the world for us. We are all flawed humans even the most brilliant and talented among us. That's what I got from the movie anyway. I am sure some people will see something else but isn't this the mark of a great storyteller.
As with many who have written reviews, I am a Hemingway fan. This is a fabulous film in a tradition not seen often enough. Everyone else has said many good things about the film and they are true. What I would like to draw attention to is the story not told here. Denne's story.There are hints dropped in the film and I am sure I didn't pick up on all of them. Why change his name? Not sure why "Ed", but Myers was his mother's maiden name. Ed is asked in the film, if he ever met found his parents. I believe (correct me if I am wrong) but he says his father died early of drink and he met his mother for about 10 minutes in Berkeley and indicates her reaction wasn't good. (She got a PhD, became a professor, and worked with handicapped children.) There is more there.Denne goes on to be a quite successful screenwriter and was married to "Debbie" Elva for 21 years. (There is more than a little of Hemingway's leanness in screen writing.) When I saw the movie, I assumed it was made from a book and there would be more there. It wasn't. Denne did the screenplay. Denne did move to Ketchum and stayed close to Mary until her death. There is another story there.