Saturday, December 11, 2010

Movie with Abe: Hemingway’s Garden of Eden

Hemingway’s Garden of Eden
Directed by John Irvin
Released December 10, 2010

Ernest Hemingway’s posthumous novel “The Garden of Eden,” subject to considerable editing due to the untimely death of its author, is the basis for John Irvin’s utopian soap opera. In the film, a young couple philanders around Europe, bathing in excess and living life without the hassles of goals, ambition, or motivation to do much of anything. Of course David, an author in his own right, wants to write and create lasting works, but his impatient and filthy rich wife desires nothing more than to have a good time. Trouble in paradise isn’t far off, and the road there is entirely superficial, heinous, and generally unbearable.

Mena Suvari’s Catherine parades around as if she’s the important thing in the world, and her audacity is equally off-putting and obnoxious. Jack Huston’s David can’t seem to be bothered to care about anything, and his indifference to his horrific situation is one of the main reasons the film fails to be compelling. Caterina Murino’s Marita seems entirely incapable of expressing any kind of emotion or protest, subservient to either Catherine or David, depending on which one of them is in the process of bossing her around and posing her on their own private stage. These stark characterizations could be effective if it were possible to buy or bear that these people really could exist, and that’s simply not the case.

The characters in “Hemingway’s Garden of Eden” are so pretentious that it’s impossible not to detest them, yet it’s not as if their misadventures are terribly interesting. Before adding Marita to their marital mix, Catherine and David (the order of their names is crucial) decide to indulge in lavishness by dyeing their hair a hideous shade of white, as if to prove just how much they disregard the way the rest of the world lives and breathes. Everything is “Hemingway’s Garden of Eden” is on the surface, to the extent that there doesn’t appear to be anything underneath. It’s a story of self-involved, gluttonous people whose affairs (and affairs are a main topic of conversation) aren’t all that interesting. Both the characters and especially the film, however, clearly don’t realize this and choose to devote an altogether admiring lens to all Catherine, David, and Marita do. The film definitely looks good, something which filming in Spain and France certainly helps to do, but it, like its characters, appears coated over by a layer of deception and fakeness, lending it an unmaskable air of haughty contempt.


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