Thursday, August 25, 2016

Genius is for book lovers

Movie Title:    Genius

Grade:  A-

Rating:  PG-13, 104 minutes

In a Nutshell:  
I'm an official book nerd, so I really liked this movie. 

As an author of 21 published books, I was fascinated with the working relationship between the 20th-century "genius" writer Thomas Wolfe and his famous book editor Maxwell Perkins.  

Based on the biography “Max Perkins: Editor of Genius” by A. Scott Berg, this stylish film is beautifully shot and has some gorgeous vignettes in almost every scene.

In a summer full of remakes and loud explosions, this period piece will hit you in the heart, not over the head.  It was fascinating to watch Thomas Wolfe and his editor create better sentences together. As you watch the film unfold, ask yourself: Which man was the true genius?

Uplifting theme: 
  • “Human beings aren’t fiction.” – Aline Bernstein (Nicole Kidman)
  • I loved the conversation Tom and Max had about the importance of stories.  Tom saw the people struggling during the Great Depression in America and decided that what he wrote was trivial in comparison to what they were dealing with in their lives.  Max explained that in the beginning of time, when people would gather around the fire at night to get protection from the howling wolves around them, someone would begin to talk and tell a story.  The stories gave them comfort so they wouldn’t be afraid of the dark.  Tom puts his head on Max's shoulder and breathes a sigh of gratitude and understanding.  Sweet moment.
  • The creative process is messy!
  • Words are powerful things.
  • Transformative relationships and friendships.

Things I liked:
  • For those who are unfamiliar with Thomas Wolfe, you’ll get to hear snatches of some of his beautiful work.
  • Jude Law gives an excellent performance.
  • It was fun to watch Max interact with other famous writers he discovered like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.
  • There are some really clever, funny, insightful conversations.
  • The cast is absolutely terrific: Colin Firth, Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Laura Linney, Guy Pearce, Dominic West.
  • The musical score was very understated, yet extremely powerful when it needed to be.  Nice job.
  • It’s hard to show someone writing on paper look exciting on the Big Screen, but it works in this stirring film.
  • It was fun to watch Max's family listening to the radio in the 1920’s with everyone gathered in the family room, on the couches, on the floor, letting their imaginations run wild.
  • Director Michael Grandage is a Tony Award winner who is now bringing his magic to the movies.  Welcome!
  • John Logan is an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter who brought us Gladiator, The Aviator, Hugo, and Skyfall.  I loved all of those films.

Things I didn’t like:
  • Max wears his hat indoors and outdoors, in almost every scene he is in.  Am I missing some kind of deep symbolism?  Was it supposed to illustrate his own quirky mania that each of his writers possessed?
  • The movie uncovers the inner turmoil that some of the greatest writers of the early 20th century endured.  Most popcorn-crunching, action-seeking audiences won’t be able to sit through such a movie. 
  • Watching this movie may feel a little bit like reading one of Thomas Wolfe's books...long winded, but worth the effort.
  • Some viewers describe the relationship between Tom and Max as a bromance, but it's more of a father/son relationship that is complicated like normal father/son relationships.
  • The movie poster could have been so much more compelling.

Interesting lines:
  • “It’s not the page count that matters; it’s the storytelling.” – Max
  • “I hate to see the words go!” – Thomas
  • “They’re working girls.  It doesn’t count.” – Tom
  • “Yes, Tom.  It does.” – Max
  • “Editors should be anonymous.” – Max
  • “That’s what makes editors lose sleep.  Are we really making books better?  Or are we just making them different?” – Max Perkins
  • “I don’t exist anymore.  I’ve been…edited.” –  Aline Bernstein
  • “Enjoy the time with Tom.  Because after him, there is a great hush.” – Aline Bernstein
  • “Am I supposed to grow up like you?” – Tom
“No, Tom.  But you’re supposed to grow up.” - Max

Funny lines:
  • “Good that Tolstoy never met you!  We’d have that great novel ‘War and Nothing.’" - Thomas

Tips for parents:   

  • Children and most teens are going to be bored.
  • Thomas Wolfe is a loud and obnoxious drunk during most of the movie.  In one scene, he kisses some "working girls."
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