While the role of the editor in the film world is fairly well known, complete with awards recognising the skill required, the same cannot be said of the literary editor, whose name is generally only mentioned in passing in the acknowledgements section (though some, like Stephen King, do make a point of spending a few more words – of praise – on the topic).
As such, a film like Genius, while not exactly groundbreaking, deserves a fair amount of kudos for shedding some more light on a relatively obscure subject. Taking its cue from the life of Maxwell “Max” Perkins, who worked for Scribner and served as the editor for writers such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, the film focuses on his relationship with Thomas Wolfe, who was famously rejected by every major publisher until Perkins saw the potential in what would become Look Homeward, Angel (originally titled O Lost and over 1100 pages long).
The relationship between the two men benefits on screen from the contrasting acting styles of the actors, with Colin Firth’s more reserved performance as Perkins finding its ideal foil in Jude Law’s more manic, if occasionally hammy, portrayal of Wolfe. The duo also contributes to an unmistakable air of Britishness for what is a very American story (written for the screen by Gladiator’s John Logan), with an unrecognisable Dominic West chiming in as Hemingway (Fitzgerald is played by the English-born Australian Guy Pearce).
Genius is the first foray into film directing for Michael Grandage, one of the most celebrated names of the English stage. And while his new endeavour may lack the bite that Sam Mendes brought to American Beauty, it remains a solid effort that showcases Grandage’s skill in setting a mood and working with actors. In particular, he deserves credit for getting moving, honest performances out of Laura Linney and Nicole Kidman, stuck with the token female supporting parts in what is a very male-dominated world (and film).
Also worth noting, given the subject of a man whose job includes reducing a book’s page count, is the fact that Genius doesn’t overstay its welcome, clocking in at a lean, manageable 104 minutes. And while it arguably could have used some extra time to shed more light on Perkins’ relationship with other writers (Hemingway especially is reduced to a cameo), it can stand, fairly proud, as an auspicious debut for a promising talent.
|What||Genius film review: Berlin film festival|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
|Price||£ determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more information|