'Hemingway & Gellhorn': What the Critics Are Saying

 HBO

Perhaps appropriate considering the film's subject, a biopic exploring the contentious relationship between novelist Ernest Hemingway and journalist Martha Gellhorn has the critics at odds.

Starring Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman, HBO’s Hemingway & Gellhorn received high marks in some circles for its scope and performances but was criticized in others for what was perceived as a lack of authenticity.

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The film, which covers the couple’s seven-year relationship and beyond, got the big screen treatment at the Cannes Film Festival -- a format The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy thought suited it. He praised the film’s rich settings, which true to the world-traipsing couple, include Spain, China, New York, Key West West, Fla. And Cuba.

“Entirely and effectively shot in Northern California, doubling for much of the world, the film looks rich and resplendent, perhaps at times even too spiffy and pristine,” McCarthy wrote.

He also singled out Kidman’s performance, who portrays a 28-year-old Gellhorn.

“Aging up 25 years is one thing, but convincingly dropping 15 years? Not a hint of makeup or visual tinkering can be detected in either direction,” McCarthy wrote.

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Entertainment Weekly’s Ken Tucker liked the film despite himself.

“For a two-and-a-half-hours-plus biopic, it was maddeningly, irresistibly watchable. Every time I thought I was going to throw in the towel,” he wrote, “the film simply took off in a fresh direction and I was hooked all over again.”

Tucker enjoyed the performances from Kidman and Owen, writing: “Both writers come off as passionate egomaniacs with literary gifts so undeniable, you can’t help but enjoy them.”

New York Times critic Mike Hale wrote he had hope for Hemingway & Gellhorn, given the scope and emotion found in some of director Philip Kaufman’s films such as The Right Stuff and The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

“Unfortunately, 'Hemingway & Gellhorn' is neither intimate nor epic,” Hale wrote. “It’s a disheartening misfire: a big, bland historical melodrama built on platitudes about honor and the writing life that crams in actual figures and incidents but does little to illuminate them, or to make us care about the romance at its center.”

Los Angeles Times critic Robert Lloyd complained that while based upon research, the film is “never quite believable, either as history or drama.”

He continued: “From the moment young writer Martha, 28, sidles up to the celebrated Ernest, a decade older and covered in marlin blood, at a Key West bar, we never really lose the sense that we're in a movie, in the company of play actors, not of people.”

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