Genius (2016 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Michael Grandage|
|Written by||John Logan|
|Based on||Max Perkins: Editor of Genius|
by A. Scott Berg
|Music by||Adam Cork|
|Edited by||Chris Dickens|
|Box office||$5.7 million|
Genius is a 2016 British-American biographical drama film directed by Michael Grandage and written by John Logan, based on the 1978 National Book Award-winner Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg. The film stars Colin Firth, Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Dominic West, and Guy Pearce. It was selected to compete for the Golden Bear at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival.
The film begins in New York City in 1929. Maxwell Perkins, a successful Scribner's editor and discoverer of talented authors such as Francis Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, lives in a cottage just outside the city with his wife and five daughters. One day, in his office, he reads the drafts of O Lost, a novel by Thomas Wolfe. Struck by the content, Perkins decides to publish it and begins to collaborate with the author. The novel is eventually published as Look Homeward, Angel and proves to be a commercial success: fifteen thousand copies sold in a single month. Perkins and Wolfe become best friends, while Wolfe's relationship with Aline Bernstein, a married woman twenty years older than him, is severely tested after the publication of Wolfe's novel. Max manages to publish Wolfe's second novel, Of Time and the River, after several years of exhausting revision work. The second novel is also a success.
Meanwhile, Wolfe is in Paris where he follows the events remotely, thanks to news received from Perkins. On his return to New York, he immediately goes to work, writing his new book. His turbulent character leads him to quarrel with Perkins, destroying the relationship between the two and making Wolfe turn to another editor. Aline finally leaves Thomas, because he is too self-absorbed and unable to care about others. After Perkins has reconciled himself with Wolfe's absence, a phone call comes from Wolfe's mother: Wolfe has contracted miliary tuberculosis. Despite surgery, Wolfe shows no signs of improving. After a few weeks he dies, but before that he writes a letter to Max, reaffirming his immense affection for him.
- Colin Firth as Maxwell Perkins
- Jude Law as Thomas Wolfe
- Nicole Kidman as Aline Bernstein
- Dominic West as Ernest Hemingway
- Guy Pearce as F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Laura Linney as Louise Saunders
- Vanessa Kirby as Zelda Fitzgerald
- Makenna McBrierty as Nancy Perkins
Principal photography on the film began on October 19, 2014, in Manchester, and ended on December 12, 2014. Some of the other filming was carried out in Golden Bay Malta on February 20, 2018.
The film was released on June 10, 2016. It had its premiere at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival on February 16, 2016.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film currently has a rating of 53% based on 109 reviews and an average rating of 5.78/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Genius seeks to honor worthy subjects, yet never gets close enough to the titular quality to make watching worth the effort". On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 56 out of 100, based on 23 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Among the British reviews of the film, The Guardian wrote, "Michael Grandage's debut film, on Thomas Wolfe and his literary editor Maxwell Perkins, is hammily acted, overstylised and lacking in subtlety", while The Independent wrote, "The acting, along with John Logan's script, belongs to the theatre". The Daily Telegraph, meanwhile, had this to say about the film: "All the blaring trumpets and martinis the director can fling us as jazzy background don't save the film from being very unappealingly lit indeed—full of drab, grey interiors, it's halfway to monochrome."
Among the American reviews, meanwhile, Variety opined, "Though Michael Grandage's dull, dun-colored Genius makes every effort to credit the editor's role in shaping the century's great novels, it's nobody's idea of interesting to watch someone wield his red pencil over the pile of pages that would become Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel, even if the editor in question is the great Maxwell Perkins. While the talent involved should draw smarthouse crowds, the result has all the life of a flower pressed between Angel's pages 87 years ago." The Hollywood Reporter was similarly unimpressed, writing, "The insurmountable problem, however, is that the story engages only late in the game, once Tom has betrayed his father figure by revising his previous acknowledgment of the role Max played in molding his genius. But perhaps due to the anesthetizing effect of most of what's come before, the central relationship lacks spark and the pathos remains muted. Even scenes that should burst with excitement, such as Tom loosening up sober Max in a Harlem jazz club, are like CPR on a lifeless body." The New York Times also found the film unsatisfactory, writing, "Genius is a dress-up box full of second- and third-hand notions. Set mainly in a picturesquely brown and smoky Manhattan in the 1930s, it gives the buddy-movie treatment to that wild-man novelist Thomas Wolfe and his buttoned-up red-penciler Maxwell Perkins." Rolling Stone had the same impression, writing, "You know the drill: Strong source material, in the form of A. Scott Berg's National Book Award-winning biography on Perkins, a top-notch screenwriter (John Logan) and a to-die-for A-list cast. Having all the right ingredients doesn't mean you can't royally screw up the recipe, however, and the missteps start coming fast and furious even before Law's manic-hillbilly act wears out its welcome."
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- "Genius Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved May 12, 2020.
- Barnes, Henry (February 16, 2016). "Genius review – Colin Firth and Jude Law's literary bromance needs an edit". The Guardian. London. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
- Aftab, Kaleem (February 16, 2016). "Genius, film review: Michael Grandage should have stuck to his day job". The Independent. London. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
- Robey, Tim (16 February 2016). "Genius review: 'a colourless chore'". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
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- Scott, A. O. (June 9, 2016). "Review: 'Genius' Puts Max Perkins and Thomas Wolfe in a Literary Bromance'". The New York Times. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
- Fear, David (June 11, 2016). "Genius". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 19, 2016.