<i>Hemingway and Gellhorn</i> Succeeds

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"I'm not dead you f**k," Martha Gellhorn says after hanging up on her editor. She has just told him,"I can't wait for you to grow a pair of balls." He is not treating this skilled war correspondent right.

Previously when being interviewed, she is asked if she sees herself as owing a debt to Hemingway and says, "I do not see myself as a footnote to someone else's life." This movie proves that, indeed, she is not.

In the opening scene Hemingway introduces Gellhorn as a best-selling author. "She's gunning for both of us", Hemingway says as he introduces her to Dos Passos. Throughout this film, Gellhorn trumps Hemingway in his efforts to smother her independence 'til the end.

This spellbinding story -- the passionate love affair between Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway -- is breathtaking. Gellhorn stands up to a jealous Hemingway as only a writer can to a writer. Played by Nicole Kidman, who has all the moves right and ages believably, but it isn't just the makeup. Kidman has been through her share of tough, domineering men and brings her experiences to play against a sensual, commanding Clive Owen. His portrayal of Hemingway is flawless. He shows the passion and bravado of an oversized ego. Their love scenes are smoldering. Believable. Just like a giant sized ego in the form of a famous writer takes a woman and makes love to her. Close to rape it is, but escapes rape when Gellhorn realizes Hemingway is motivated by fear. She has empathy for him. She is able to love him because she understands his fear forces him to have a need to be in control. Until the end when her empathy turns to anger. When in Hemingway's fit of jealousy he takes her publication, her employer, Colliers, from her and makes it his own. He covers the European invasion for Colliers and her magazine no longer needs her. The child that he is takes her employment from her to pay her back for having deserted him when she went on an assignment to Finland without him.

The film opens with Gellhorn saying, "I always thought sex was something you withheld. Love? I'm a war correspondent. Of course there are wars and there are wars. I was in a café in Key West when I met him. I remember thinking, "Who is that large dirty man in those disgusting clothes, and then I said to him, 'I've never kissed a fish."

"What's your name, sophisticated? If we have a drink am I gonna have to fight your husband?"

"I'm with my mother and my brother."

"What do you do, sophisticated?"

"I see the world. I just returned from Berlin."

"Let's see the reviews... every writer keeps one review," Hemingway says and Gellhorn pulls out a review mentioning Eleanor Roosevelt. "The trick is writing the way people talk. Most people never listen," Hemingway says. He writes standing as he pounds a typewriter. This bizarre image haunts.

About writing, he says to Gellhorn who is suffering from writer's block, "There's nothing to writing. All you do it sit down at your typewriter and bleed. The important thing about writers is to tell a good story. The best ones are all liars."

During the first time he ravishes Gelhorn, she asks, "Is this what you want?"

"It's what I need," he replies spreading her legs.

"I knew when I fell in love with him the exact moment," she says. "And why... It was his words. Whatever private thing he uttered to a dying man on the field." The finest scenes were the love scenes. So real. So erotic.

Robert Duvall, Parker Posey, David Straithairn, Tony Shalhoub, Peter Coyote, Brooke Adams, Diane Baker all have smaller parts, but they all complete a wonderful production.

"Ladies and gentlemen I am a writer and the last thing a writer should do is talk, "Hemingway says introducing a film, The Spanish Earth, that he filmed during the war. When Gellhorn speaks and gets a standing ovation, director Phillip Kaufman shows the mounting jealousy in Hemingway.

Gellhorn smokes and drinks along with Hemingway and has a mouth that matches him verb to verb. The Spanish war is shot in sepia tones and black and white images that fade into color. The cinematography is top notch and costumes reflect the era and splendor of Cuba. Jerry Stahl and Barbara Turner do a magnificent job capturing the dialogue that is peppered with Hemingway's famous phrases.

Throughout the film, I was reminded of the similarities of the competitive spirit and ego of Norman Mailer to Ernest Hemingway.

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