Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What was HBO thinking???


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.

33 comments:

That Neil Guy said...

Aww. Carol Kane. I haven't thought about her in years. Wonder what she's been up to lately? Pardon me while I google her...

Charlie O'Brien said...

Great line: "there are more laughs in the first ten minutes of this movie than the entire season of WHITNEY."
That's not many.

Slugwriter said...

Forget the writing (which is, of course, forgettable), forget the direction (also forgettable), but Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman as he leads? The casting agent should be shot. Owen was horribly miscast as Hemingway and Kidman as Gellhoen was obviously cast because she is "brave" - this is code for I'm not afraid to get naked and have sex on screen.

A sad, sad, sad movie.

Sadder still? Me. I watched Hemingway and Gellhorn, not once, not twice, not three times... No, I'm such a masochist (or ever the optimistic looking for the good in bad films) that I subjected myself to this film FIVE times beginning to end. And I still have it recorded in case I want to watch again...

Kill me now.

benson said...

Slugwriter's post leads me to a Friday question. Can you explain the casting director's role? Do they get involved in casting the stars? Or just the lesser roles? I guess, overall, what does a casting director do?

Joel Keller said...

I knew something was amiss when neither major star would do interviews for it and HBO decided to bury its major movie with its two major movie stars on Memorial Day. Thanks for confirming what I suspected all along.

benson said...

And OT: Congrats on the Kings.

Tom Quigley said...

It's too bad Bob from BECKER couldn't go around saying things like "Bob doesn't like being in this movie. Bob is depressed!"

HourOfLead said...

I never watched Becker, but I always know a face and I recognize Bob from "Bad Boys" with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. He was Will Smith's doorman Chet who was kind of fast-talking, wishy-washy and good comedic relief. Very memorable part.

Mike Bell said...

Yes, but what about the 10 minute sex scene while everything was getting blown up real good outside? Nothing says good lovin'like a nice dusting of plaster!

Eric J said...

That was great! You should write a book!

Anonymous said...

Hey, I love Carol Kane. Always found her unconventionally gorgeous. And that hair.

miglet said...

I had the opposite reaction to the leads. For me, it was torture watching my beloved Clive Owen chew and drink and bellow his way through the role. On the other hand, Nicole Kidman's performance, an actress I don't really enjoy at all or ever, kept me in the film.

My least favorite moments were any of the inserted into real footage scenes.

And I too, watched it twice.

Anonymous said...

"Nicole doesn’t pack a gun but never goes off to the front without her trusty red lipstick.  War is Hell-ena Rubenstein."

You denounce the film's quality of dialog, yet you post the above sentence?

REALLY, Ken?

REALLY?

Mike said...

Nicole Kidman is extremely overrated.
Should probably be known as an elegant prostitute.

Anonymous said...

Carole Kane is in the current revival of HARVEY on Broadway. It is delightful BTW.

David Lee

Anonymous said...

"Aww. Carol Kane. I haven't thought about her in years. Wonder what she's been up to lately? Pardon me while I google her..."

6/12/2012 6:05 AM

Found her! She's in Palm Springs performing a successful one woman show about the final years of Josephine Baker.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnLLOJ8qtxk&feature=youtube_gdata_player

synonymicious said...

Compare and contrast the job Corey Stoll did playing Papa in Woody A's "Midnight in Paris" (not to mention the suavity Yves Heck brought to the challenge of playing Kevin Kline playing Cole Porter).

writebrain said...

Gotta wonder if Charlie Rose even watched the movie before interviewing Director Philip Kaufman.

BigTed said...

It was co-written by Jerry Stahl, the "Permanent Midnight" author who's still best known for his depiction of writing "ALF" episodes while high on heroin.

Brian Doan said...

The saddest thing is Kaufman's involvement, since he proved he could do fun takes on sweeping history with THE RIGHT STUFF, 20s/30s relationships with HENRY & JUNE and suspense with INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. He's a good director, and his name on the credits was what really made me curious. Oh, well.

Johnny Walker said...

Haha! Priceless. Thanks for that, Ken. It's been a long day.

Now I have to see if I can find myself a copy of HEMINGWAY & GELLHORN, and enjoy it for myself!

Johnny Walker said...

Woah, Philip Kaufman directed this? Damn. He's usually excellent. Actually, Nicole Kidman is usually pretty solid, too. I wonder what went wrong.

James said...

Nicole Kidman was fantastic in this. The film did drag in places but it was visually stunning.

Kirk said...

Just looking at those two pictures you have of Nicole makes me want to watch it. Is she really that bad in it?

Cap'n Bob said...

Comparing parts of it to DRAGNET is a plus for me. But since I don't get HBO there's no chance I'll ever see this gem.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

That Neil Guy: Carol Kane is currently about to open in a summer production of HARVEY at the Roundabout Theater in NYC. Also in the cast: Rich Sommer (MAD MEN), Jessica Hecht (FRIENDS), Charles Kimbrough (MURPHY BROWN), and, as Elwood P. Dowd, Jim Parsons (THE BIG BANG THEORY).

It's on until August 5.

wg

Tom Cruser said...

I can’t decide which was worse the HBO offering, which you described so well as a total disaster or the STARZ premier of “Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star”?
Is it any wonder that more and more folks are UN-plugging from cable….geez

Anonymous said...

Finally someone calls a spade and spade. UGH retire already Kidman every movie you do is a flop except the cartoon Happy Feet..See the trend only your voice as a cartoon charater was in it not your over botoxed face and horrible acting. I really tried to watch it and I wanted to be fair Really I could only do it about 15 minutes and that was a real strain. Same ole same old spade.

Nilco said...

You just sold this as the Pia Zadora\Lonely Lady kind've bad. I'm in.

The Milner Coupe said...

Thank you. This turd smelt like ass. Unwatchable. I've taken your word for the second half which I spent trying to forget the first half. Can you imagine how great they all thought they were when they were making it? Barf.

Michael Zand said...

I never liked Phillip Kaufman. Always thought he was a pretentious hack. He totally fucked up "The Right Stuff," and has never had a feel for real human interactions.

He also is a horrible actors director. Some of the performances in Hem and Gel were downright embarrassing. Tony Shahloub's Russian accent was a parody of Boris Badanov's.

Mel Ryane said...

Heartily agree with you, Ken. This was appalling television right down to that ridiculous dissolve of Kidman's face into a skull. WTF? And neither of them could maintain their dialects. If this gets even one Emmy nomination my face will dissolve.

normadesmond said...

thank you for gifting me 90 minutes i might otherwise have wasted. that's one reason why i like to stop in.