Sunday, May 21, 2017

Genius: A Deeply Emotional Film Well Worth Viewing

Movie Review: Genius (2016)
Version: Library Borrow

Good books are usually a collaboration between the author and the editor. A relationship develops between the writer and the wordsmith, in which the one creates and the other molds. Based on the book, Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A. Max Berg, Genius sensitively taps the deep well that is this subject, which in this case is the all too-short time author Thomas Wolfe and editor Max Perkins worked together.

This is a good film that didn't gross much at the box office,yet deserves an audience for its superb acting, it's great writing, and its well paced plot.

The story unfolds in depression-era 1929 as Max Perkins is sitting in his office editing a book by Steinbeck. A colleague walks in with a heavy sheath of typed pages and hands them to Perkins. "Is it any good?" he says. "No, but he's a genius." Perkins takes the tome home and on the way reads in on the train, and on the walk to the house, and in through the door, up the stairs, past the wife rehearsing for a play, daughters playing in the living room, office, bedrooms, and every other quiet room of the house. He finally settles in a closet. He is enraptured by the book. The next day, Wolfe walks flamboyantly into his office, sure that, like every other publisher in New York City, Scbriner & Sons won't think the book is any good. Perkins surprises him with a $500 advance and wants to get to work on it right away.

From there, Perkins guides Wolfe on decisions into making Look Homeward, Angel from 1100 pages into a more compact book. Elated at publishing his first work, Wolfe is eager and compliant at the hands of an experienced editor. Once the book is published and becomes a bestseller, Wolfe writes his second novel, some 5,000 pages long, delivered in handwritten pages. Wolfe is less pliant with what he sees as his masterpiece of visualizations, but Perkins helps him focus less on vibrant descriptions and more on impactful language that brings the story into focus. They work on the book for two years, wrestling back and forth over excessive language to publish Of Time and the River.

Subplots in the story include Wolfe's complex relationship with his patron and lover, Aline Bernstein, a theater set decorator with a waning marriage and a jealous attachment to Wolfe. Also Perkin's family, who can't get enough time with husband and father Perkins because of the time he spends on Wolfe's books. Intertwined are interactions with F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

The characters are rich and earthy, played to great depth by Colin Firth as Perkins, Jude Law as Wolfe, Nicole Kidman as Bernstein, Laura Linney as Perkin's wife Louise, Guy Pearce as Fitzgerald, and Dominic West as Hemingway. If anything is out of the ordinary, it is the excess with which Law plays Wolfe's eccentricity. Perkin's hat may well have gotten a credit -- he wears it in every scene, till near the end. Was it a metaphor for the man who wore but one hat in life, that of extraordinary editor to great writers?

You don't have to be an author or editor to appreciate this film. It offers fine acting, great writing, elegant cinematography, and beautiful set decoration. You feel for the characters as they work through the plots and subplots. It is a deeply emotional film. Genius is well worth your viewing.

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