HEMINGWAY & GELLHORN is so bad that if Hemingway were still alive this would have killed him. It’s hard to believe HBO could miss so badly but this is the HEAVEN’S GATE of cable.
What it’s supposed to be: a sweeping historic romance between two colorful larger-than-life characters.
What it really is: a seeping hysterical booty call between two cartoon characters.
Clive Owens plays Kevin Kline playing Cole Porter playing Ernest Hemingway. And he is Oscar worthy compared to Nicole Kidman’s performance, which wouldn’t get her cast as a walk-on in a high school play. Her take on a hard-bitten, hard drinking, bad-ass journalist Martha Gellhorn was absolutely laughable. Carol Kane would be more believable.
Every macho bullshit cliché is included in this bomb. Papa reels in giant marlins, has a rifle collection, mounted big game, drinks out of the bottle, eats raw onions, sings rebellious anthems, plays Russian roulette, wears flak jackets, and goes off to wars. Except when he’s at the wars he just sorta hangs out. Picture Geraldo Rivera in Iraq.
Nicole doesn’t pack a gun but never goes off to the front without her trusty red lipstick. War is Hell-ena Rubenstein.
The turgid, sexually-charged dialogue between her and “Papa” sounds like an old script from DRAGNET. I’m telling you, there are more laughs in the first ten minutes of this movie than the entire season of WHITNEY.
Typical line of cheesy dialogue: “FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS is selling like ice cream in hell.”
One stylistic device they employ is blending into black-and-white. But they fade in and out of it completely at will. Forty-five times. And sometimes for good measure, they tint the color sepia. Remember how your grandma used to keep adjusting her first color TV? That’s what this was like.
Every frame of this movie is bogus. One of my favorite moments: Nicole has arrived in Spain. She’s in her hotel room, sleeping. The door bursts open and Papa storms in with three documentary filmmakers. They set the camera up at the window. We see out the window. Cut to actual newsreel footage: no less than half a million people are in the streets as troops march forth. None of this would wake her up? Later she storms beaches. Thank God the lipstick is waterproof.
But they saved the very worst for the last. At this point the film stopped being unintentionally funny and became just jaw-droppingly atrocious. Should you make it to the end (and I doubt you will), there’s maybe the worst scene in the history of cinema. Nicole is observing the horrors of the concentration camps. Her concerned face is super-imposed over these gruesome shots and then dissolves into a skull. I just sat there flabbergasted. They didn’t really do that? They couldn’t really do that? Well… they did.
Worth noting is the supporting cast: Some terrific actors just wasted. Robert Duvall, David Strathairn (adventures in bad make up), Tony Shalhoub (no Emmy this time, Tony), Parker Posey, and Bob from BECKER. That’s right. Bob is in it!
What bothers me most about this astounding misfire is that it's a movie about writers. How many of them are there? They’re a hard-sell at best. We’re generally less exciting and cinematic as say Navy Seals. So when one is made and sucks it just makes it harder for the rest of us to get our movies. This is especially true in my case now that I have a new book out. A big budget film set in the swinging ‘60s about a teenage dork who draws comic books and can’t get to the beach because he can’t drive yet suddenly is no longer a slam dunk to be made. Thank you, HBO. First you give us LUCK and than this. I need a drink.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM