A biopic of famous literary editor Max Perkins (Colin Firth), which centers on his personal and professional relationship with eccentric author Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law). As Wolfe becomes consumed with his lengthy novels and begins to alienate his lover Aline Bernstein (Nicole Kidman), Perkins struggles to reel in his talent in order to deliver another best-seller for Scribner Publishing during the 1930s.
Sometimes there are films that you absolutely don’t know anything about (other than in the clips I posted here) but you give it a chance based on who is involved. Being a big fan of Colin Firth, Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, and Laura Linney who also appears in this as Perkins’ wife Louise, I was willing to give this one a viewing. Even after waiting about a month to see it but I still thought it was worth seeing.
Max Perkins (Firth) is a famous editor and the film starts off with us seeing him at work. He then is then confronted with a controversial manuscript by an author named Thomas Wolfe (Law). His manuscript got rejected everywhere else and Perkins was his last resort. Of course Perkins agrees to read it and likes it so he and his company, Charles Scribner and Sons, decides to publish it. Early on, we get a real glimpse of Perkins and his family life which included his wife Louise (Linney) and his five daughters. Perkins is a workaholic, often choosing his work over his family, much to the chagrin of Louise.
Ever since meeting Wolfe, this distance between them increased as Perkins and Wolfe grew closer and closer together, becoming great friends, almost like a father and son relationship. This wasn’t exactly clear as the film never explored any character motives whatsoever. Not only was Perkins’ relationship with his wife being damaged here, Wolfe’s relationship with his lover Aline Bernstein (Kidman) was becoming strained as well. As Perkins and Wolfe’s relationship grew, Bernstein was becoming jealous and resentful of the time they were spending together, causing her to lash out on several occasions for no apparent reason. Sure, there was some animosity here but there were never any repercussions for this since she kept going back to him anyway. Because of the film’s focus on Perkins and Wolfe, it never explored this, literally ignoring their significant others just as much as Perkins and Wolfe did which made what little we saw not feel earned.
This movie has quite the focus on Perkins and Wolfe so they are in many of the scenes together. They had great chemistry which made them very watchable. Their relationship did feel a little one-sided, however, as Wolfe was just so over the top here and felt more like a Southern caricature. He was supposed to be an eccentric genius, hence the title, but this just made him unlikeable. Despite that, it was easy to see how much they cared about each other, more than their significant others, even though at times it looked like they didn’t. This did not come as much of a shock since the story went pretty predictably because it was full of cliches. The film just seemed so shallow in every regard as it could have gone much further with every aspect of the film such as Perkins and Wolfe’s relationships with their significant others, Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald (Guy Pearce) and Ernest Hemingway (Dominic West) who didn’t add much to the film, or any character development.
Other than Law whose Southern accent was borderline offensive, the acting was okay here. Firth was good here as Perkins who was depicted here as more of a strong, silent type. He was able to convey so much even by saying so little. He just stood there authoritatively and got our attention. He never seemed to get riled up here, never getting too high or low. He was just right here, trying to counter-balance Law’s craziness. Kidman was okay as Bernstein even though her character was badly written and whose action never seemed to make sense. Linney was full of energy and helped to lift up Firth’s low-key performance.
Overall, this was a decent film which felt like oscar-bait but unfortunately doesn’t come close to it with its shallow story and good but not great performances.