Saturday, July 2, 2016

Genius (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


Theatre director Michael Grandage takes us to a 1920s  New York in his debut film  "Genius". There are gray skies, there is rain and soggy flannel suits. People are attempting to rush to work, even though work is increasingly hard to find. But author Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law) is standing outside making jazz music with his stomping foot, hoping to gather courage to see Max Perkins (Colin Firth) about his rejected manuscript.

So begins the journey of Wolfe and Perkins on their unusual friendship.

Jude Law is big, frenetic and wild as the celebrated writer, and he all but disapears within this rambling man with the Carolina drawl. Law pulses with his pencil. Better still, the actor speaks with some of the rollicking flavor of Wolfe and one feels that  we get a true shade of the man who once wrote a near thousand page novel.

Colin Firth as the encouraging Perkins is a bit too reticent and shy and often winces as if swallowing a lemon. Still one does get a real aspect of this partnership. The huge rangy tree of Wolfe paired with the silent and utilitarian human arborist that is Perkins. The melodrama nonwithstanding, the two give a believable tone to friendship.

There is more melodrama also in the action of Mrs Bernstein, Wolfe's girlfriend. As played by Nicole Kidman, she rages into the office and swallows a half dozen pills. While this is based in truth, the scene rings of a soap opera. Later she returns with a silver gun.

We see other authors as well: Fitzgerald, (a  pale and nervous Guy Pearce), Hemingway in Key West (a swaggering Dominic West) and a catatonic Zelda (Vanessa Kirby). The Lost Generation is all here but Wolfe is the star of the show.

A good scene shows Perkins and Wolfe at a jazz bar. Wolfe is Dionysus and the milquetoast Perkins struggles, but he ends up tapping his feet to the music, defeating his inner Calvinism. There is haunt too as Wolfe lies stranded on a desolate beach making a real life Salvador Dali painting.

What comes across most is the striking disapearance of the actor Jude Law in playing the famed actor. He is Thomas Wolfe. This is one character who roars like an elephant in wanting to push language out from under the fedora hat and set it free. Law himself outdoes Firth, but the askew qualities and Firth's peptic anxieties show a give and take of what clearly may have been a friendship on fire.
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