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Movie review: 'Hemingway's Garden of Eden'

This adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's posthumously published novel mixes passion and elephant hunting.

December 09, 2010|By Mark Olsen

Based on a posthumously published novel, "Hemingway's Garden of Eden," directed by John Irvin from an adaptation by James Scott Linville, tells the story of a writer (Jack Huston), his wife ( Mena Suvari) and the heiress ( Caterina Murino) who ignites a brief passion among all three.

Handsomely presented, with locations in Spain and Africa, the film at moments accomplishes its ambitions of being a tart piece of steamed-up Jazz Age storytelling (casting Richard E. Grant as a drunken friend crisply ups the ante for most any film). Aside from a general lack of intensity that keeps it from really capturing the grasp of romantic obsession, inarguably the biggest problem with "Eden" is a structural one.

Every time the film switches over to dramatize a story that the writer is working on, a hunting adventure of a boy and his father, the momentum stops dead in its tracks. The true heart of the film is the tempestuous relationship between the writer and his wife and the way the presence of their mutual lover brings it to a boil, so why Irvin and Linville would be so thoroughly distracted by elephant hunting in the desert is anyone's guess.

"Hemingway's Garden of Eden" is better than it might have been yet still a definite letdown, a literary B-side turned into something not awful, just forgettable.

—Mark Olsen

"Hemingway's Garden of Eden." MPAA rating: R for strong sexual content, nudity and some language. Running time: 1 hour, 51 minutes. At Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.

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