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  • Hemingway’s Garden of Eden | Review

    By | January 8, 2011

    Director: John Irvin

    Writer(s): James Scott Linville (screenplay), Ernest Hemingway (novel)

    Starring: Jack Huston, Mena Suvari, Caterina Murino

    Hemingway began The Garden of Eden in 1946 and worked on the book for 15 years, during which time he also wrote The Old Man and the Sea, The Dangerous Summer, A Moveable Feast, and Islands in the Stream. A gratuitously abridged version of Hemingway’s ninth — his second posthumously released — novel was published in 1986. The published version yields 30 chapters and 70,000 words; Hemingway’s working transcript has 48 chapters and 200,000 words. Against my better judgment, I tried to read The Garden of Eden once; I returned it to the library, totally frustrated, after literally forcing myself to read the first hundred pages. (Note to self: Do not force yourself to read anything ever again…especially posthumously released unfinished novels.)

    To add insult to injury, John Irvin has now directed a James Scott Linville adaptation of Hemingway’s never truly finished novel. Titled Hemingway’s Garden of Eden — probably because so many other films have been titled Garden of Eden over the years — Irvin’s film was completed in 2007. (Yes, it took three years to acquire a distribution deal in the United States…not necessarily the calling card to a great film.)

    I guess it is around time for a synopsis, huh? OK, fine. Here…

    Post-WWI, a young American writer David (Jack Huston) falls into a whirlwind romance with the wealthy and sexually-charged woman, Catherine (Mena Suvari); most of the film takes place during their never-ending honeymoon. Jack soon finds himself overwhelmed by Catherine’s dominating sexuality (and ever-shortening hair length) — he even begins to refer to her by the pet name “devil.” Then, the exotic Marita (Caterina Murino) enters the picture as a seductive third wheel…blah, blah, blah…

    As I remember it, the only appealing aspect of the novel Garden of Eden is the strange gender politics, but the film Hemingway’s Garden of Eden opts to portray the gender issues as comedic rather than political. (Admittedly, I laughed pretty damn heartily when David makes his first appearance with platinum blond hair.) Hemingway’s Garden of Eden is a beautiful film — thanks to the gorgeous vistas…oh yeah, and Suvari and Murino’s nakedness. (Lots and lots of nakedness.) The acting is not bad either. Both Suvari and Huston are quite impressive. Jack Huston is an actor with impressive lineage — he is the grandson of John Huston and great grandson of Walter Huston — while Mena Suvari seems to have finally found her way since her fantastic turn in American Beauty.

    Unfortunately, the dialogue is borderline atrocious and the directing is not much better. So let’s just chalk this cinematic failure up to the curse of Hemingway’s ghost… (I guarantee that Hemingway would have never approved of the publication of Garden of Eden and he certainly would have never approved of this film.)

    Rating: 3/10

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