Hemingway & Gellhorn…
Director: Philip Kaufman
Cast Leads: Nicole Kidman (Martha Gellhorn) & Clive Owen (Ernest Hemingway)
Released: 2012 by HBO (Television release)
Incidentals: MA15+ 154 minutes running time
About: Starring two of today’s most acclaimed actors, and directed by Oscar nominee Philip Kaufman (in his first film for television), Hemingway & Gellhorn tells the story of the passionate love affair and tumultuous marriage between Martha Gellhorn (Kidman) and Ernest Hemingway (Owen), following the adventurous writers through all the great conflicts of their time – from the Spanish Civil War and beyond. Considered by many to be the greatest of all war correspondents – man or woman – Gellhorn’s drive and success catapulted her beyond the confines of her marriage into a revered and respected career independent of Hemingway’s. Epic in scale, with masterfully woven archival footage, Hemingway & Gellhorn offers a unique glimpse at a powerful relationship born and torn by war.
It must be holidays if I’m giving you a film review, and yes, it certainly is. Middle weekend of the winter break, and we just so happened to have received a cold snap today so a blanket and a movie seemed ideal. I came upon this film quite by accident, in that, a couple of weeks ago, I read a book review for a fairly newish release which interested me enough to end up buying the ebook. Love and Ruin, written by Paula McLain, although I have to apologise as I can’t remember the reviewers name. A few days after this, Hemingway & Gellhorn popped up on my recommendations to watch list. One of those ‘the internet is spying on me’ situations I expect, although in this case, it was rather useful! While the film and novel cover a similar time period about the same people, they are in no way linked. I just brought the novel up because it was the catalyst for my interest in this story.
I’m very much in two minds about this film. It’s very long, possibly it was a miniseries when it first aired, I’m not sure, and while in some cases this wouldn’t bother me, in terms of this film, it did. There was far too much of Hemingway’s debauchery and arrogance and not nearly enough of Gellhorn’s incredible writing career. This woman was a pioneer, and absolute fearless trailblazer, but this got a little lost alongside Hemingway’s ego and his larger than life persona. Nicole Kidman gave an excellent performance throughout the entire film, there were moments of great emotion and depth that were delivered with perfection, she really shows her experience here over and over. I just feel like her character was let down by the writers. There’s this terrific line at the end of the film that goes along the lines of:
‘I’m not just a footnote in somebody else’s life.’
I’m not sure why they chose to treat her as such in this film. Given the length of it, there was certainly room to present more of Gellhorn’s career, yet in typical HBO fashion, more emphasis was put on gratuitous sex scenes and extended drinking sessions that did nothing more than underscore my intense dislike of Hemingway. He may well have been one of America’s greatest novelists, I personally was quite partial to A Farewell to Arms, but as a man, he was less than impressive. And as a husband? No thanks. I think at first it appealed to him that Gellhorn was a writer, and brave as well, but the moment her celebrity began to encroach upon his own, his ‘grand love’ seemed to be swept to the side in favour of being an undermining and domineering arse. What he did to her, right before she left him, would have to go down as the worst dog move in history, ever. I’m so glad she divorced him and went on to become the most successful war correspondent ever. Which brings me back to the point that this film glossed over her career shamefully. With 154 minutes of television time at their disposal, this film should have been an ode to such an inspiring writer, giving us so much more of her career, her bravery, and her sheer determination to tell the truth when no one else was listening.
One of the highlights of this film was the interwoven archival footage, lending a documentary air to much of the important historical scenes. There were many moments of seeing this history in action, real footage of history, that moved me immensely, and also to tears. Despite this, I probably wouldn’t recommend this film, to be honest, it’s just too long and too disappointing. I’m beginning to approach anything released by HBO with caution, they’re just too predictable and what they consider as entertaining I usually prefer to fast forward through.
A promising prospect that unfortunately fell short.