Mike Kueber's Blog

December 31, 2013

Saturday Night at the Movies #95 – Hemingway and Gellhorn, Lovelace, and Invictus

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 11:15 pm
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Hemingway and Gellhorn is a 2012 HBO film that focuses on the relationship of famed writer Ernest Hemingway and his third wife, war-correspondent Martha Gellhorn between 1939 and 1945.  Nicole Kidman as Gellhorn steals the show as a ballsy, idealistic adventurer, while Clive Owens as Hemingway is believable as a charismatic, dissolute rake.  Rotten Tomato critics and the audience give it mixed reviews – 50% and 46% respectively, but I found it both interesting and engaging at three stars out of four.  Its biggest drawback is that Hemingway didn’t deserve Gellhorn, as she concluded in 1945.  As she said in the movie (and in real life), she didn’t want her life to be a mere footnote to a famous man, and this movie helps her achieve that desire.

Lovelace is a 2013 dramatization of Linda Lovelace’s involvement in the porn business, most famously in the movie Deep Throat.  Lovelace is played by an exceptionally winsome Amanda Seyfried, and her loathsome pimp boyfriend/husband Chuck Traynor is played by Peter Sarsgaard.  Sharon Stone (Basic Instinct) and Robert Patrick (Terminator 2) play Linda’s old-school parents.  Lovelace debuted at Sundance and then only appeared in a limited release.  The critics enjoyed the flick at 54%, but the audience was only at 37%.  I thought the story was credible and interesting, and the cast was strong, so I give it three stars out of four.

Invictus is 2009 biographical drama that depicts Nelson Mandela’s use of South Africa’s rugby team to generate some national unity following the downfall of apartheid in South Africa.  My son Jimmy is a college rugby player and suggested that I would enjoy the movie.  He was mostly wrong.  Although the movie tells an interesting and important story, it has less drama than a well-done documentary.  Amazingly, Morgan Freeman earned a Best Actor nomination for his portrayal of Mandela and Matt Damon a Best Supporting nomination for his portrayal of South Africa’s Springbok team captain.  Neither actor did much to create an emotional connection with the audience.  Mandela comes across as a latter-day Jesus, or at least a saint, and that’s OK because of Mandela’s well-established reputation, but it would have been nice if Damon’s character had more depth.  Rotten Tomato critics liked Invictus at 76% and the audience was nearly identical at 75%.  I give it passing grades because of its story, but fail it for its execution as a drama – two stars out of four.

Incidentally, Invictus raises an interesting aspect of nation-building.  A couple of years ago, I blogged about this subject in connection with a book by George Friedman titled The Next Decade.  In the book, Friedman pointed out that:

  • A nation is group of people with shared values, identity, and interests; whereas a state is the established government in an area.
  • Most regions of the world are divided into nation-states.
  • Occasionally, a nation is governed by multiple states (the Koreas) or a state governs multiple nations (the Soviet Union), but generally the boundaries of the nation and state should coincide.
  • Outside of Egypt, the nation/state boundaries in Africa do not coincide.  Rather, the states of Africa are a reflection of the administrative boundaries established by the European empires that have now vacated the continent.
  • Chaos will remain in Africa until power is consolidated in states that govern coherent nation – “As harsh as this may sound, nations are born in conflict, and it is through the experience of war that people gain a sense of shared fate.”

Invictus makes me wonder if, as Mandela appeared to realize, sports teams can assist a state in nation-building.

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