In the opening scene Hemingway introduces Gellhorn as a best-selling author. "She's gunning for both of us", Hemingway says as he introduces her to Dos Passos. Throughout this biopic, Gellhorn trumps Hemingway in efforts to smother her independence till the end.
This spellbinding story--a-passionate love affair -- is breathtaking. Gellhorn stands up to a jealous Hemingway as only a writer can to a writer. Played by Nicole Kidman who has all the moves right and ages believably, but it isn't just the makeup. Kidman has been through her share of tough, domineering men and brings her experiences to play against a sensual, commanding Clive Owen. His portrayal of Hemingway is flawless. He shows the passion and bravado of an oversized ego. Their love scenes are smoldering. Believable. Just like a giant sized ego in the form of a famous writer takes a woman and makes love to her. Close to rape it is, but escapes rape when Gellhorn realizes Hemingway is motivated by fear. She has empathy for him. She is able to love him because she understands his fear forces him to have a need to be in control. Until the in 1945 when her empathy turns to anger as he tries to destroy her. When in Hemingway's fit of jealousy he takes her publication, her employer Colliers, from her and makes it his own. He covers the European invasion for Colliers and her magazine no longer needs her. The child that he is takes her employment from her to pay her back for having deserted him for accepting an assignment to Finland without him. When she objects and prepares to leave him, he slaps her. She now refuses his plea to return to the role of Mrs. Hemingway, as his third wife. By now he has taken up with a compliant Mary, the soon to be the next Mrs. Hemingway,
"What's your name, sophisticated? If we have a drink am I gonna have to fight your husband?"
"I'm with my mother and my brother."
"What do you do, sophisticated?"
"I see the world. I just returned from Berlin."
"Let's see the reviews...every writer keeps one review," Hemingway says and Gellhorn pulls out a review mentioning Eleanor Roosevelt. "The trick is writing the way people talk. Most people never listen," Hemingway says. During the entire film he writes standing as he pounds a typewriter. This bizarre image haunts. About writing, he says to Gellhorn who is suffering from writer's block, "There's nothing to writing. All you do it sit down at your typewriter and type. The important thing about writers is to tell a good story. The best ones are all liars."
During the first time he ravishes Gelhorn, she asks, "Is this what you want?"
"It's what I need," he replies spreading her legs.
"I knew when I fell in love with him the exact moment," she says. "And why... It was his words. Whatever private thing, he uttered to a dying man on the field." The finest scenes are the love scenes. So real. So erotic
Robert Duvall, Parker Posey, David Straithairn, Tony Shalhoub, Peter Coyote, Brooke Adams, Diane Baker all have smaller parts, but they all complete a wonderful production.
."Ladies and gentlemen I am a writer and the last thing a writer should do is talk, "Hemingway says introducing a film, The Spanish Earth that he filmed during the war. When Gellhorn speaks and gets a standing ovation, director Philip Kaufman shows the mounting jealousy in Hemingway.
Gellhorn smokes and drinks along with Hemingway and has a mouth that matches him verb to verb. The Spanish war is shot in sepia tones and black and white images that fade into color. The cinematography is top notch and costumes reflect the era and splendor of Cuba. Jerry Stahl and Barbara Turner do a magnificent job capturing the dialogue that is peppered with Hemingway's famous phrases. Bravo for director Kaufman (The Unbearable Lightness of Being) who had volumes of material to comb through to create this champion, dynamic biopic.
Throughout the film, I was reminded of the similarities of the competitive spirit, machismo and ego of Norman Mailer to Ernest Hemingway.