Magazine article Screen International

'Genius': Berlin Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Genius': Berlin Review

Article excerpt

Dir. Michael Grandage. UK/US. 2016. 104 mins.

The first of several major challenges facing first-time director Michael Grandage in adapting the prize-winning novel Genius is the fact that, no matter how skilled and conceptually fascinating the job of a literary editor might be, put it on screen and it's just someone scoring lines through words with a red pencil. And that's a real problem in a film which focuses on Max Perkins (Colin Firth), the visionary 1920s editor who worked with Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the writer Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law).

Grandage, formerly the artistic director of London's Donmar Warehouse theatre, tries to shake it up a little. But mostly, Max works his subdued magic quietly, in a sober book-lined office. And despite the audience goodwill that comes with Firth's name and the attraction of a jazz age 1920s New York backdrop, theatrical prospects could be limited by the fact that large chunks of the film are dramatically inert, and those that aren't are dominated by a performance by Law which feels too big for the screen.

Capturing a distinctive literary voice has frequently posed difficulties for filmmakers, most recently Walter Salles, with his adaptation of Jack Kerouac's On The Road. But while Salles used all the tools in the director's kit to try explore Kerouac's riffing, freewheeling prose, Grandage leans heavily on Thomas Wolfe's words. They are delivered in gushing torrents by Law, in an accent which veers between North Carolina and North London. …

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