Movie Review: “Genius” is Grand


In a terrific independent film playing at the Downer Theater in Milwaukee, I got to watch Collin Firth, Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, and Guy Pearce in a story about a golden age for publishing in the United States. The movie is called “Genius”and it focuses on Max Perkins, editor at Scribner & Sons who represented Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and for the purposes of this film Thomas Wolfe, author of”Look Homeward Angel.”

Perkins is the landing strip that welcomes the soaring novelists back to the world, dazed from the nearness of the sun. .

Superbly acted and set splendidly amid the clothes, cars, and romance of the early 20th century, the plot centers around the discovery of Thomas Wolfe by Perkins. Wolfe (Jude Law) is a passionate and hyper-prolific writer, and Perkins (Colin Firth) is drawn to him personally and professionally despite the tragic and destructive nature he sees in him.

Nicole Kidman plays Miss Bernstein, Wolfe’s amour, and Guy Pearce plays F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose refinements are in sharp contrast to Wolfe’s impulsive and coarser nature.

But Perkins is the constant. He manages the prose and the problems of his artists, as a counterweight might balance and complete a piece of high art: Perkins is the landing strip that conveys the soaring novelists back to the world, dazed from the nearness of the sun. Perkins is the father confessor, absolving his writers for their self-torture. Perkins is the protector; he shelters these demigods from the wrath of a jealous Olympus.

Colin Firth and Jude Law are both at their best in this, and for writers and readers alike the film reveals the nature of literary achievement: mortals write and edit stories; history makes them into scriptures.


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