Colin Firth. Jude Law. Nicole Kidman. Guy Pierce. Dominic West (from The Wire). For this quintessentially American story, all about Americans writing great American literature, who do they cast in the major roles? Three Brits and two Aussies. You have go all the way down to sixth billing to find an American: Laura Linney. What’s up with that? Now, I’m not one of those who say Brits should be played by Brits, Yanks by Yanks, and Australians by kangaroos (though I did think casting Kidman and Law in Cold Mountain was a big mistake), and these are all fine actors. But this is ridiculous. Plenty of people across the pond were pissed off when Meryl Streep was cast as Maggie Thatcher (I would have cast a dead polecat). Is this their revenge? Plus, Jude Law’s “southern” accent here is pretty awful.
The best I can say about this movie is that it was a noble attempt. But let’s face it, watching two guys battle it out over editing a manuscript, even if the manuscript is Of Time and the River, is not what you’d call cinematic. There are some nice moments, but most of the time I was thinking “Just publish the damn thing!”
I will regard these depictions of Thomas Wolfe and Maxwell Perkins as fictional characters. I have no idea if Wolfe was the gigantic asshole we see here. I don’t know if Perkins had his hat glued to his head. (Firth is wearing the same hat in every scene, until the final one, when we see it does come off. I was longing for a scene of him in the bathtub or in bed.) (Oh, yeah, in one scene, fishing with Ernest Hemingway, he has exchanged his gray fedora for a Panama.) I was dubious about the scene where Wolfe shows up at the office with the finished book, and four guys come in toting four big boxes … until he is shown writing, and I saw that he was lucky if he got twenty words on a page. Is this true? I don’t know. And in fact, as seen here they are both gigantic assholes. They have been editing the book for two years, working all day, every day? That’s not editing, that’s jacking off. And Wolfe can’t take one day off to see the premiere of his girlfriend’s play? And Perkins can’t take three or four days off to go on a camping trip with his wife and five daughters? Shame on both of you. I guess I just didn’t believe much of this, though I was shocked and alarmed to find that there really is such a thing as tuberculosis of the brain, and it killed Wolfe.