The first Hollywood film to be shot in Cuba since Castro isnt close but no cigar the Ernest Hemingway biopic is an oceangoing embarrassment
Papa: Hemingway in Cuba holds the distinction of being the first Hollywood production to shoot on the island nation since 1959. But other film-makers looking to leave their mark need not fret, as theres still an opportunity to attain the first American cinema shooting there since Fidel Castro came to power that isnt a complete, mortifying embarrassment.
Papa is another biopic-through-the-lens of a young acolyte, similar to the recent debacle Nina, though this time its screenplay was written by the witness himself. Giovanni Ribisi is Ed Myers( name changed from the late Denne Bart Petitclerc ), a newspaperman in Miami in the late 1950 s. Abandoned by his father at a young age, as were told through lugubrious narration, he turned to the books of Ernest Hemingway while looking for a father figure. He writes an impassioned note to Hemingway and the working day he receives a phone call. I got your letter. Its a good letter, Adrian Sparkss Hemingway tells him, as if he didnt ensure the charade of Hemingway in Woody Allens Midnight in Paris or, worse, he did see it and used that as a guide. You like to fish?
With that, Ribisi is off to Cuba to dive for pearls of wisdom and mentorship. He get that, but is also witness to Papa bickering with his put-upon fourth spouse, Mary( Joely Richardson ), as he violently rants about creative and sex impotence. The bearded, larger-than-life novelist is a raconteur at dinner, but rages at blank pages at other days, and stares forlornly at prominently placed handguns, which are practically winking at the camera.
Director Bob Yari, a veteran producer directing for the first time in 25 years and release the picture through his Yari Releasing Group distribution arm, may have snipped through miles of cinta roja to get to Cuba, but he fails to do anything interesting once there. Theres one brisk montage of Havana street life and a few scenes aboard Papas famous fishing barge the Pilar, but most of the time were stuck inside Hemingways home, Finca Vigia. Sure, Yari was able to shoot at the actual place( now a museum ), but the restricted space feels less like a bit of insight into one of the 20 th centurys greatest artists than a night of cheap dinner theater.
Much of the blame lies with Petitclercs hopelessly tone-deaf script. When we first fulfill Papa, hes in full Zorba the Greek mode, an exuberant older man bursting with a love of life, but this quickly turns to the tired routine of the dark genius. After witnessing some of the guerrilla fighting, Papa takes his new pupil to a bar and offers this bit of sage wisdom: God, damn war! Later, when he and Mary are fighting, and he tells her to go to hell, she fires back: Im already there! Just because the movie is set in the late 1950 s, that doesnt mean the dialogue needs to be rent from the daytime soaps of the era.
At the one-hour mark, the film gets an extra spin of unnecessary plot. Papa is under the watchful eye of the FBI, and Ribisis Myers gets summoned for a sit-down with the shadowy Santo Trafficante( James Remar ). Why would the head of the mafia want to meet with me? he asks aloud, in case the name doesnt ring buzzers. But its worth taking the meeting, because from it comes the revelation that Ernest Hemingway is being persecuted by the United States government due to knowledge of J Edgar Hoovers taste for wearing womens clothing. This is played with such seriousnes and ham-fisted importance that it is necessary to applaud the sound recording unit for covering up what must have been a set full of chortles.
The movies worst crime is presenting the Myers visits as the origin of Hemingways( probably) apocryphal six-word short story, For sale, baby shoes, never worn. In the spirit of poorly mimicking Hemingway, Ill offer my six term review: Cuban permits dont make good films.
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