Sunday, June 10, 2012


2.5 hours of obnoxious, loud, hard-drinking, hard-screwing Americans, speaking almost entirely in aphorisms while using their bullish American celebrity to win private audiences with foreign leaders and dance with death on the frontlines with bona fide freedom fighters of the Spanish Civil War and, later, against the inhumanity of Chinese imperialism. Is anything that either of these protagonists wrote about these anti-fascist struggles, in long-dead magazines like COLLIER'S, as well remembered or as useful to life today as Hemingway's least important fiction? It's annoying to see the lasting value of the novel so demeaned and trivialized, and to have suggested that Hemingway did most of the decent things he did in order to get hard, drunk or laid, but somehow it's still worse to see Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman (who are good, don't misunderstand me) CGI-horned into old newsreel footage; it makes a cartoonish trick out of real heroism and real suffering. I was surprised to find Philip Kaufman, director of several abiding favorites, behind this. P.S. Anyone who has actually read the USA TRILOGY or other brilliant works by the fine American novelist John Dos Passos will revile his treatment here, in a deliberately weak-wristed David Strathairn performance. Impressively, if sometimes perversely, cast all the way down the line: Robert Duvall, Molly Parker, Parker Posey, Jeffrey Jones, Diane Baker in a non-speaking walk-on, with Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich as film director Joris Ivens and former INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS star Brooke Adams as "Madrid Woman."

Viewed on HBO.


  1. Must agree with you, Tim. Kaufman has directed some wonderful based-in-history movies, but this isn't one of them. the little-known Gellhorn was a fine journalist and deserves better than this film.

  2. A comedy that Gellhorn wrote is being performed by the Mint Theater Company here in NY. As for the movie, I couldn't get much past Owen's resemblance to SIMPSONS character Ned Flanders.