Genius

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Based on a true story, Genius follows the complicated relationship between the famed literary editor Maxwell Perkins played by Colin Firth and acclaimed novelist Thomas Wolfe played by Jude Law. Already a well-regarded editor at Scribner’s of such authors as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, Perkins faces his biggest challenge of working with the often irksome Wolfe. First meeting in 1929, he agrees to edit Wolfe’s extremely long first manuscript of the novel Look Homeward, Angel, which had been rejected by all other publishing houses. The film provides a unique glimpse into the often unseen process of book editing and how it can be painstakingly difficult for both editor and author. Workaholics by nature, both men’s personal lives are adversely affected by their work. Perkins struggles to juggle his career with his family life, especially his wife played by Laura Linney, an aspiring playwright who feels underappreciated. Wolfe’s prodigious writing habits also alienates his love life with a married costume designer played by Nicole Kidman: his wild temperament provokes jealousy and neglect. After the first novel is published, Perkins faces an even greater challenge when Wolfe, who has become his friend in a albeit tumultuous relationship, presents him with literally crates full of his latest manuscript. Numbering about 6,000 pages and constantly added to by Wolfe, it takes more than two years to publish what would become the 1935 novel Of Time and the River. Filmed in grayer tones and with outbursts of ragtime-sounding jazz, the film accentuates the early 20th century setting and the characters’ emotional rollercoaster rides. Colin Firth’s performance evokes a rather straitlaced yet very talented office dweller who only takes off his bowler-style hat during particularly intense scenes. Jude Law is the polar opposite: he gives a manic performance of a uncouth, often drunk writer who happens to be one of the greatest novelists. Overall, the movie is fairly well done and tells a quite interesting story of the inner workings of the literary world and how genius often comes at a price. Complete with actual readings from Thomas Wolfe’s writings and cameos of Fitzgerald and Hemingway as characters in the storyline, the film should surely delight fans of great American literature.

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