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GENIUS (director: Michael Grandage; screenwriters: John Logan/based on the book ‘Max Perkins: Editor of Genius,’ by A. Scott Berg; cinematographer: Ben Davis; editor: Chris Dickens; music: Adam Cork; cast: Colin Firth (Maxwell Perkins), Jude Law (Thomas Wolfe), Nicole Kidman (Aline Bernstein), Laura Linney (Louise Perkins), Dominic West (Ernest Hemingway), Guy Pearce (F. Scott Fitzgerald), Vanessa Kirby (Zelda), Elaine Caulfield (Mabel Wolfe), Lorna Doherty (Peggy Perkins), Eve Bracken (Zippy Perkins), Katya Watson (Jane Perkins), Makenna McBrierty (Nancy Perkins), Angela Ashton (Bertha Perkins); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: James Bierman, Michael Grandage, John Logan; Lionsgate; 2016)
Unimaginative literary biopic.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The London-based stage actor/director Michael Grandage,in his feature film directing debut, pays tribute in this unimaginative literary biopic to the legendary NY based Scribner’s editor of American literature Maxwell Perkins (Colin Firth) and tells in detail his relationship through the Depression decade to his discovered unknown manic young Southern writing genius Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law). But the director keeps things stodgy and makes it feel more like a play than a movie. It’s adapted for the screen by John Logan, and is based on the 1978 book ‘Max Perkins: Editor of Genius,’ by A. Scott Berg. It was filmed in London. In 1929, in Perkin’s Fifth Avenue office, the self-effacing fedora wearing editor tells the bombast struggling writer, Wolfe, to his relief, that his rambling but unique novel will be published but will have some three hundred pages trimmed from the over thousand page manuscript and a title change to Look Homeward, Angel. He brings the author to his comfortable Connecticut home to meet his loyal wife, Louise (Laura Linney), a former actress whose talent he disregards, and their five bubbly daughters. Their collaboration leads to a best seller, which goes to Wolfe’s head and causes him to split with his married lover, Aline Bernstein (Nicole Kidman), a wealthy older woman who supported him when he was down. She utters the film’s cutest line “I don’t exist anymore. I’ve been edited.” Perkins was also known as the discoverer of great authors such as F. Scott Fitzgerald (Guy Pearce) and Ernest Hemingway (Dominic West), who are slipped into the story in cameos and their scenes get the full Hollywood author cliche treatment. Fitzgerald‘s mentally troubled wife Zelda (Vanessa Kirby) also makes an appearance at a Connecticut dinner. Though it tells the literary success story with an earnestness, the directing is uninspiring, the talented mostly British and Aussie cast are mostly miscast, and the screenplay is slight. It’s probably not a bad film, but it’s also not a good one.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”