Monday, July 24, 2017

Movie Review - Genius

Genius (2016)
Starring Colin Firth, Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Guy Pearce, Dominic West, and Laura Linney
Directed by Michael Grandage
***This film is currently streaming via HBO Now/GO***

As the words of Thomas Wolfe were read aloud and his mellifluous prose lyrically opened Michael Grandage's film Genius, I was drawn into this tale about the unique author (played by Jude Law) and his publisher Maxwell Perkins (Colin Firth).  However, as I imagine I'd feel attempting to read one of Thomas Wolfe's lengthy tomes, lovely descriptive verbiage can only get you so far -- story also has to have some importance.  Unfortunately, Genius begins to falter as it enters its second half, failing to really take its characters on any type of journeys that weren't obvious from the film's opening scenes.

In 1929 New York, Perkins is reading Wolfe's first attempt at a novel with much aplomb.  Shot down by innumerable other publishers, the hickish-sounding, though verbose Wolfe was taking one final shot, going out on a limb by giving his novel to Perkins who edited and published works by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Guy Pearce) and Ernest Hemingway (Dominic West).  When Perkins agrees to publish Wolfe's work, a parental-type friendship is formed with Perkins seeing Wolfe as the son he never had.

There is something compelling in the opening act of Genius -- rarely do films translate the art of writing to the screen successfully and this film was first.  However, as it progresses, it falls into stereotypical traps that don't allow its characters to feel fresh.  Its script also grows repetitive -- Perkins continues bickering with Wolfe about editing down his tomes, Perkins' wife Louise (Laura Linney) wants her husband to spend more time with his five daughters, Wolfe's lover Aline (Nicole Kidman) resents Wolfe spending all his time with Perkins -- failing to advance its characters in any substantial way, reiterating the same story notes over and over again.  Director Grandage with his first film has a fantastic cadre of actors at his disposal, but with the lukewarm script, he's unable to really pull anything substantial from any of them.

The RyMickey Rating:  C-

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