Genius Movie Review
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Genius enlists a star studded cast to depict the true story of a lifelong friendship between two men who lead contrasting lives. Jude Law (Black Sea (2014)) plays Thomas Clayton Wolfe, an early twentieth century author with an unorthodox work ethic and writing style that mirrored his turbulent personal life. Colin Firth (Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)) plays Maxwell Everts Perkins, a hard working book editor and publisher with a story book family life. Mr. Perkins is the first editor to see the potential in Mr. Wolfe’s writing and agrees to help him edit and publish his first novel, which is loosely based on his own life in both content and the disorganized nature of the manuscript. Despite multiple personality clashes, the two become close friends and successful business associates as one man teaches the other the importance of occupational discipline while the other demonstrates how to enjoy life to the fullest.
Notwithstanding the strong chemistry among the A-list talent, this directorial debut by Michael Grandage fails to take the viewer on the emotional roller coaster along with the actors. Genius suffers as it tries to compress a decade into 105 minutes. The viewer is rushed through the family life of Mr. Perkins, and the tumultuous love life Mr. Wolfe due to his innate desire to be a traveling free spirit. The main story is often interrupted by a glossed over back drop of a struggling US economy and the introduction of random famous literary personalities of the era. Passage of time is depicted, in some instances, as the frantic shuffling of a manuscript and at other times an abrupt cut to a new place and time. Mr. Wolfe’s emotional roller coaster crests early in the film. We watch as his love affair with Aline Bernstein (Nicole Kidman, The Railway Man (2013)) falls apart and his friendship with Mr. Perkins gets tested as the author struggles with his success and alcohol.
Fans of classic literature may appreciate the drama of bringing a literary classic from concept to publication, or the connection between classic authors, but most viewers will find this movie frustrating and shallow. The film left me wondering about a time when authors and editors had a large impact on society, but it just scratches the surface on that topic. The title, Genius, left me scratching my head. It could refer to the author, the editor or both, but which is never clear. One thing is for sure, it is not a word that I would use to describe this film.